Bahrain terms Amnesty International paper as inaccurate, unfair and one-sided story

Dr Fatima Al Balushi, Bahrain's Minister of Social Development and Health
The Kingdom of Bahrain on Monday regretted the Amnesty International report on Bahrain as inaccurate, unfair and one-sided portrayal it presents of events in Bahrain.

Dr. Fatima Al-Balooshi, Minister of Social Development, responded to Amnesty International’s Briefing Paper in Bahrain a Human Rights Crisis, in a letter to Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

In particular, the Minister deeply regretted that the organisation had released the paper despite deeply-held concerns as to the lack of objectivity and neutrality displayed by Amnesty International’s delegate to Bahrain, as demonstrated by his refusal to meet with groups who were prepared to question anti-government claims.

In the Minister’s view, the briefing paper further confirmed these concerns, with its wholesale adoption of pre-prepared allegations without attempting to verify their credibility or accuracy, or to ascertain other sources or viewpoints.

The Minister took the issue with Amnesty’s characterisation of the recent events in Bahrain as “peaceful protests”. She noted that Amnesty’s delegate had witnessed first-hand the horrific injuries inflicted on tens of police officers still hospitalised in Bahrain. Evidence shown to the said delegate had made it abundantly clear that these protests were anything but “peaceful”, including as they did a range of serious and violent crimes ranging from attacking ambulances up to and including premeditated murder, as means by which the protestors sought violently to overthrow Bahrain’s legitimate government

The Minister assured Amnesty International that the Kingdom of Bahrain would remain determined to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, despite being faced with a security situation that included extreme and premeditated violence, often against unarmed and vulnerable civilians, compounded by outside interference. As a result of these challenges, Bahrain had been left with no option but to declare the State of National Safety, so as to restore peace and security and ensure the protection of the rights of all parts of society.

The Minister also refuted the claim that Amnesty International delegate was “refused” meetings with senior security officials on grounds of “state secrecy” – the Amnesty International delegate met with such officials during his talks with the Supreme Human Rights Committee, during which he had the opportunity to raise any and all issues of concern. Further, the Minister viewed it as unfortunate that the same delegate chose not to include in the report the sectarian and often violent incidents which took place at the hands of protestors prior to the declaration of the State of National Safety, including incidents at the Bahrain Financial Harbour, the University of Bahrain, Hamad Town, and the politicisation of, and denial of medical treatment at, the Salmaniya Medical Complex on sectarian grounds.

With regard to the claims of arbitrary dismissals from employment, the Minister in her letter made it clear that disciplinary and legal proceedings had been taken in accordance with relevant legal standards, and only in relation to specific violations of the law, such as absenteeism. Further, she stated that the Government has no hand in the decisions of private sector companies with regard to their workforce, while any individual who believes they have been treated unfairly can bring a case before the Labour Courts.

The Minister confirmed that the arrest of a small number of doctors, nurses and lecturers was not directly connected with their professions or their legitimate professional activity. However, lawful investigations are undertaken where there is evidence of criminal activity, for example the incitement of violence or hatred, the refusal of medical treatment for political or sectarian reasons, or the deliberate falsification of patients’ injuries regardless of the implications for their health. She indicated her concern and surprise that Amnesty International’s delegate saw fit not to mention such issues, and assured the Secretary General of Amnesty International that all those arrested in this regard will have fair trials, and will be accorded all their rights of visitation and representation.

The Minister voiced her deep disappointment and concern that Amnesty International has chosen to accept and repeat allegations which are without any truth. She also expressed concern that Amnesty’s delegate had visited Bahrain with an apparently prejudged view of the situation here, and refused to accept evidence, or meet sources, who might contradict this view.

In conclusion, the Minister stated that in an effort to ensure a better international understanding of the reality in Bahrain, and to strengthen efforts to promote and protect human rights worldwide, Bahrain is prepared to continue its cooperation with Amnesty International. She reaffirmed that the organisation remains welcome to visit Bahrain as often as necessary to discuss such matters.

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