Bahrain first country reviewed by UN Human Rights Council

Other News Materials 8 April 2008 00:05 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The UN Human Rights Council's new mechanism for examining the human rights record of all 192 UN members in a rolling programme was put to the test for the first time Monday.

Bahrain was among the first wave of 16 countries chosen to be scrutinized under the so-called universal periodic review mechanism in this first session which lasts until April 18.

Bahrain's Foreign Affairs Minister Nizar al-Baharna, leading a 27- strong delegation, presented his country's case before a panel of three council members serving as rapporteurs.

The rapporteurs, in this case Slovenia, Britain and Sri Lanka, were picked by lots.

Al-Baharna told the panel that Bahrain had taken steps to ensure freedom of religion, implemented efforts to protect society against terrorism and assured freedom of the press according to the constitution among a long list of other measures.

Bahrain had also begun the process of establishing a national human rights institution, which was expected to be operational this year.

The panel raised a number of issues including Bahrain's labour polices, freedom of expression and the press.

It also questioned the gender balance, in particular efforts to improve the status of women in society and the rights of migrant workers as well as the reform measures being undertaken to eliminate forced marriages.

Farida Golam, from the non-governmental organization (NGO) Bahrain Human Rights Society, told reporters after the session that problems such as the Shiite minority and women's rights had hardly been mentioned.

Nabeel Rajab from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said it had been a "waste of time and money" travelling to Geneva. "We are returning completely disappointed."

The review mechanism was set up as one of the defining new tools created for the Human Rights Council when it succeeded the widely discredited Human Rights Commission two years ago.

After Bahrain, it was the turn of Ecuador to be followed from Tuesday by Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia, Finland, Britain, India, Brazil, the Philippines, Algeria, Poland, the Netherlands, South Africa, the Czech Republic and Argentina.

The next session of another 16 countries follows in May.