Bahrain / Human rights: Government effectively cancels UN Special Rapporteur on torture’s visit
Bahrain / Human rights
24 April 2013
GENEVA (24 April 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, today expressed his deep disappointment with the decision taken by the Government of Bahrain to postpone his visit to the country, which was scheduled to take place from 8 to 15 May 2013.
“This is the second time that my visit has been postponed, at very short notice. It is effectively a cancellation as no alternative dates were proposed nor is there a future road map to discuss,” Mr. Méndez stressed.
The Government’s decision comes after yet another week of continued clashes between demonstrators and security forces and the release of several reports criticizing Bahrain’s failure to hold senior officials accountable for torture since 2011.
In a letter handed to the Special Rapporteur on 22 April 2013, during a meeting in Washington DC, the Government said that the ongoing National Dialogue has unexpectedly taken much longer than envisaged and that a visit could be immensely damaging to the chances of the Dialogue’s success.
“Due to the sensitivity of my mandate there will never be a perfect time for my visit, something that is true for any country that I may visit,” the UN Special Rapporteur on torture noted.
“The Government is facing many challenges in light of the on-going tensions in Bahrain. I would have conducted my visit in the spirit of cooperation and expected the Government to share that approach; regrettably, this does not appear to be the case,” he said.
In his view, an independent assessment of whether torture and ill-treatment indeed continues, despite the implementation of some reforms, and whether obligations towards the rehabilitation of victims have been met could have contributed to the National Dialogue and strengthened a culture of human rights.
“I can understand that this postponement could be perceived as if there is something to hide,” said the independent expert. “At least it does not enhance transparency with regard to the situation in the country nor demonstrate a commitment to redress impunity regarding any violations. Rather, the authorities seem to view my visit as an obstacle rather than a positive factor to the reform process.”
In fact, the Government has already issued a media statement claiming the Special Rapporteur has “put off” his visit.
“Let me be clear,” said Mr. Méndez, “this was a unilateral decision by the authorities. Unfortunately, it is not the first time the Government has tried to avoid responsibility for the postponement of my visit, which was originally supposed to take place over a year ago.”
The Special Rapporteur urged the Government of Bahrain to honour its commitments made to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review process in September 2012, among which was the acceptance of a recommendation to welcome a visit by the mandate on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“Finally, I would like to express my compassion with the people of Bahrain who were expecting my visit, civil society and in particular, victims of torture and ill-treatment and their families,” Mr. Méndez added. “I will continue to engage with the Government by considering violations submitted to my mandate and by closely monitoring the situation of torture and ill-treatment, including the right of rehabilitation for victims in Bahrain.”
Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx