Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is a Bahraini non-governmental organisation which registered with the Bahrain Ministry of Labour and Social Development in 2002. The centre was given a dissolution order after its president Abdulhadi Al Khawaja was arrested in September 2004 for criticising the country's Prime Minister, Shaikh Khalifah ibn Sulman Al Khalifah at a seminar in which he blamed the Prime Minister for the failure of widespread economic development for all citizens (in particular the disenfranchised Shia majority). In November 2005 a court sentenced Al Khawaja to one year in prison on charges which included "inciting hatred" and accusing authorities of corruption, under provisions prescribed by the 1976 Penal Code. However, later on the same day, 'Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja was released after the King issued a decree exempting him from spending the rest of his sentence in prison.
Although its license was revoked, the BCHR is still functioning after gaining a wide internal an external support for its struggle to promote human rights in Bahrain.
Vision and Mission
BCHR describes its vision as "a prosperous democratic country free of discrimination and other violations of human rights" and says its mission is to "encourage and support individuals and groups to be proactive in the protection of their own and others' rights; and to struggle to promote democracy and human rights in accordance with international norms" based on four objectives:
- Promoting freedoms and basic rights (civil, political and economic)
- Combating racial discrimination
- Dissemination of human rights culture
- Contributing in providing support and protection for victims and the vulnerable
Structure and funding
The 26-founding members includes prominent doctors, lawyers, journalists, and NGO leaders, men and women. Membership in the general assembly is open for volunteers who serve more than six months at one of the Center’s committees. BCHR’s general assembly elects its board of directors for a two-year term. So far, BCHR’s activities are funded from membership fees and small amount donations from individuals.
The current president is Nabeel Rajab who has been elected recently to be the Chairperson of CARAM Asia for 2 years.
Although a young organization, BCHR has carried out many projects, including advocacy, training, workshops, seminars, media campaigns and reporting to UN mechanisms and international NGOs. BCHR has also participated in many regional an international conferences and workshops.
The centre mainly works by campaigning on, and documenting / releasing reports on local issues including the targeting of human rights defenders or political activists targeting, the detention of Bahraini citizens, the detention of more than 500 men - including six Bahrainis - at Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, migrant workers conditions and rights of migrant workers, restrictive local laws, torture and abuse of an unknown number of citizens during a period of local unrest in the 1990s, and women's rights.
Relationship with other Human Rights groups in Bahrain
There seems to be an unsaid rivalry among the three main human rights groups in Bahrain, the Bahrain Human Rights Society, the Centre and the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society. The groups often fail to back a cause being championed by the other which has fragmented important campaigns such as work for fair legal proceedings for the Bahraini detainees at Guantanamo Bay, or otherwise work on the same issue separately. The Centre is largely viewed as taking a credible but largely oppositional stance, while the Bahrain Human Rights Society is seen as less confrontational with the government over issues, and the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society seen as basically an unofficial government body (its members include members of the unelected Shura Council (Bahrain).
Partnership with other global Human Rights organizations
BCHR is a partner with following Human Rights organizations:
- International Federation of Human Rights (fidh)
- International Freedom of Expression Exchange (ifex)
- The Coalition for Organ Failure Solutions
- CARAM Asia
- Bahrain Center for Human Rights website
- BCHR Facebook group
- BCHR Twitter
- BCHR Youtube
- Gulf News: Civil societies threaten to boycott forum on reforms in Manama, 10/11/2005
- Human Rights Watch: Investigate Police Beatings; Attack Follows Decrees Closing Political Society, Independent Rights Center, July 22, 2005
- Amnesty International: Use of force against demonstrators, Jul 18, 2005
- Amnesty International: Amnesty International welcomes the release of Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, Nov 21, 2004
- Amnesty International: Amnesty International concerned by latest human rights developments, Nov 17, 2004
- Human Rights Watch: Rights Center Closed as Crackdown Expands, September 30, 2004
- Human Rights Watch: Activist Jailed After Criticizing Prime Minister, September 29, 2004
- Amnesty International: Concern over the detention of human rights defender and closure of human rights centre, Sep 28, 2004