End Impunity in #Bahrain Campaign: What next?
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights released 59 “Wanted for Justice” cards over the past 23 days of individuals implicated in human rights violations in Bahrain. Today, on the International Day to End Impunity, the last four cards were released. It should be noted here that this list is not comprehensive, and these reported human rights violators are not all new; some of the individuals have a history of allegations that stretches back to the 1990s, and who have been implicated by other NGOs reports, such as Human Rights Watch’s 2010 Torture Redux report. However, they continue to enjoy impunity to this day.
The BCHR made it clear in its initial press release the reasons for this campaign, stating, “It is about time we put a face to the violations. Continuously referring to the perpetrators of widespread human rights violations from the 1990’s until now as the ‘Government of Bahrain’ or the ‘regime’ allows the individuals involved to continue living and traveling freely. Let their faces be known, not only in Bahrain, but also internationally. All the names included in our list are people who should be given a fair trial according to international standards, and if found guilty, should be held accountable. We also hope that this campaign will help encourage international actors to stop doing business with these individuals, and start thinking about individual sanctions”.
As expected, the campaign received much backlash from pro-government groups, including calls for trials and legal action against the BCHR, and death threats against BCHR staff, particularly the Vice President, Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafdhah, who has since decided to stay abroad for safety reasons. From the launch of this campaign, we knew that bringing attention to the serious allegations of human rights abuses against such a repressive and violent regime would mean facing great risks, not only for the members of the BCHR personally, but also for our families inside Bahrain, and the imprisoned President of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab. However, we firmly believe that this campaign was necessary as the culture of impunity is the driving force behind the continuation of human rights abuses in Bahrain.
Founder of BCHR, Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, stated in a message from inside prison where he is serving a life sentence for his human rights work:
“Any political deal that includes the staying of perpetrators of violations in their positions will strengthen the culture of impunity and lead to failure in achieving justice for the victims. It will foster an environment in which violations will be repeated in the future. The continuation of the culture of impunity will also increase the limitations people’s rights in demanding justice from the perpetrators and their removal from their posts. This is such for Syria, Yemen, Egypt and any country that is witnessing systematic human rights violations; like Bahrain.”
End Impunity in #Bahrain – an ongoing campaign
The BCHR is looking into different mechanisms internationally to call for individual sanctions and accountability for the people listed in this campaign. As long as the judicial system in Bahrain remains biased and used as a political tool against dissidents rather than for serving justice, the BCHR will continue to bring attention those who have been implicated in human rights violations in the country. In addition to legal action, the BCHR will continue to release additional “Wanted for Justice” cards as evidence is collected and verified through documentation.