Arab human rights court in Bahrain? – a take by the Voice of Russia.

September 6, 2013

бахрейн протест бахрейн столкновения

( Photo: EPA)

The piece below, taken from the Voice of Russia of 6 September 2013, is interesting for a number of reasons:

1. it addresses the almost comical issue of basing the Arab Court of Human Rights in Bahrain

2. it quotes at length the (understandably) sarcastic comments by Brian Dooley of Human Rights First in the Huffington Post

3. it is lovely example of a different but biased geopolitical perspective:

The Arab League’s foreign ministers have endorsed the idea of founding the Arab Court of Human Rights with headquarters in Bahrain. The country is well known for its constants crackdowns on protesters and massive violations of the same rights the proposed court is meant to protect. But there are good reasons to believe that the court may well gain international recognition, since Bahrain is the key regional ally of the country dictating the global rules and norms of human right conduct, the USA.

The idea that the very notion of “human rights” in modern world is a tool used selectively upon political opponents, while similar violations go unnoticed when committed by allies, has long ago become trivial. The new move by the Arab League foreign ministers clearly demonstrates the thesis once again.

The unrest in Bahrain started almost simultaneously with the opposition’s actions in Syria. The crackdown by Bahraini authorities upon peaceful protesters was no less cruel that that by Bashar al-Assad. But it was by far more successful – mostly due to the assistance rendered by the neighboring Gulf monarchies, primarily Saudi Arabia.

The neighbors’ assistance has helped Bahraini authorities to prevent the escalation of the protests, thus “limiting” the score of the dead to 80, injured – to about 3,000, and those arrested – to roughly the same figure. There is wide perception in the world that most of detainees are subject to tortures.

This comes as a striking contrast with the Syrian case, where the same Gulf monarchies, since the very beginning of the unrest, have rendered all possible assistance to the rebels, thus turning the sporadic demonstrations in a full-scale civil war, with the death toll exceeding 100,000, and the number of refugees and displaced persons counted in millions.

It comes as no surprise that the decision to endorse the new Arab Court of Human Rights was taken at the same meeting of Arab League foreign ministers when they urged the international community and the United Nations to take “deterrent” action against the Syrian authorities, obviously meaning by “deterring actions” a military strike against Syria.

Quite naturally, Bahraini authorities welcomed the decision to create the court with headquarters in their capital Manama, seeing in it an endorsement of what it is doing in the field of human rights. On the other hand, human rights activists called it a “PR stunt”.

Maryam AlKhawaja, the acting head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said the court would do nothing to improve the rights of those in Bahrain, or other Gulf states.

“The Gulf states are not held accountable for their human rights abuses. No one will take this seriously. For them to have a court such as this is a slap in the face to those who have documented abuses in Bahrain, for which there have been no consequences,” Ms. AlKhawaja is quoted by Al Jazeera TV.

In the array of commentaries, one by Director of Human Rights First’s Human Rights Defenders Program Brian Dooley, published by the Huffington Post, stands apart.

Wittingly arguing that Bahrain is just the right place for the court, he puts forward six reasons, which, in brief, are as follows.

1. Since no Bahraini official has been convicted for the deaths and tortures, the future defendants will be in easy reach.

2. Since the arrests have usually been made without presenting an arrest warrant, there is abundance of such unused warrants.

3. Bahrain courts have shown themselves to be fast, not messing about with lengthy legal proceedings.

4. Bahrain courts have developed strict behavior code, with the rules of conduct including a ban on crossing one’s legs while the court is in session.

5. Since Bahrain expelled international observers and has denied entry visa to international human rights NGOs, there will be huge savings on the procedures.

6. The authorities know well where the human rights lawyers are, including those jailed for their activities.

All this is true. But there is a seventh reason to believe that the new court will be accepted as a legitimate body far beyond the Arab world. Bahrain, with its U.S. Fifth Fleet base, is a key regional ally of the country claiming that it is the only protector of human rights in the world, the U.S. And therefore, the latter has constantly closed its eyes on human rights violations in Bahrain, but is likely to open the eyes in order to applaud the foundation of the new court.”

Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies

What kind of human rights will Bahrain-based court protect? – News – Politics – The Voice of Russia: News, Breaking news, Politics, Economics, Business, Russia, International current events, Expert opinion, podcasts, Video.

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