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Experts of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights commend Bahrain on advancing education, ask about domestic violence mechanisms and human rights defenders

25 February 2022

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Bahrain on measures taken to implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Committee Experts commended Bahrain on advancing education in the country and raised questions about domestic violence mechanisms and the treatment of human rights defenders. 

A Committee Expert commended the efforts of Bahrain in advancing education, noting that Bahrain had the highest literacy rate in the Arab world, while asking questions about the inclusivity of the country’s education system.  One Committee Expert noted that there was a lack of mechanisms pertaining to women and domestic violence and asked the delegation to address this topic.  Concerning human rights defenders, they had been ill-treated in detention.  What was being done to address this issue?  What was being done to protect journalists and bloggers who wrote on social issues? 

Responding to questions on domestic violence, the delegation said that a national strategy had been launched to protect women from family violence.  A unified database had been established for identified cases of violence, with a follow-up mechanism in place.  A 24-hour hotline was in place at a centre for victims of domestic violence, providing medical and psychological assistance.  Concerning human rights defenders, the delegation said they had full freedom to practice human rights.  There had not been any accusation levelled in respect to human rights defenders, rather there were measures in the legislation which protected them and defined the framework of their work. If there were excesses, the Prosecutor would take the necessary steps to uphold the law, whilst still protecting human rights. 

Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Representative of Bahrain to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Head of Delegation, said Bahrain was committed to cooperating with the human rights treaty bodies and mechanisms and would discuss their report professionally and transparently.  No discrimination was tolerated in Bahrain, whether it be on the basis of gender or religion, with justice acting as the foundation of the State.  Mr. Bucheeri said that a national model of equality had been adopted to ensure equal opportunities.  Women occupied 55 per cent of key posts and 35 per cent of the work force in the private sector.  Regarding the bolstering of economic and social rights, Mr. Bucheeri said the strategic national action plan was being reactivated to modernise Bahrain.  Efforts would be pursued to protect economic, social and cultural rights with all stakeholders, including civil society. 

In concluding remarks, Ludovic Hennebel, Committee Experts, thanked Bahrain for taking on the importance of this type of dialogue and was reassured that Bahrain would take all concerns raised seriously.  Regarding allegations on repressions of demonstrations, sanctions on bloggers and violations against human rights defenders, it was noted that the delegation had promised to continue dialogue on these points.  He looked forward to working together towards better and broader human rights protection.

Mr. Bucheeri said that the delegation had enjoyed the rich dialogue and had much to learn from the substantive dialogue on the Covenant.  He reaffirmed the importance to support and promote a culture of human rights in order to have a civilized society where everyone enjoyed human rights under the rule of law.

Mohamed Ezzeldin Abdel-Moneim, Chair of the Committee, said the initial report submitted by Bahrain had an important status and would act as a reference for progress on the Covenant.  He thanked the Permanent Representative and the delegation, wishing them good health and prosperity, security and wellbeing to the country. 

The delegation of Bahrain was comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Interior Affairs; the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism; the Ministry of Labour and Social Development; the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Finance and National Economy; the Ministry of Housing; the Ministry of Information Affairs; the Public Prosecution; the Supreme Council for Women; the Supreme Council for the Environment; the Labour Market Regulatory Authority; the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities; the Legislation and Legal Opinion Authority; the General Secretariat for Grievances; the National Contact Centre; and the Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage

The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 4 March at 5:30 p.m. to adopt its concluding observations on the reports of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Uzbekistan and Bahrain, which were considered during the seventy-first session, and close the session.

Report

The Committee has before it the initial report of Bahrain (E/C.12/BHR/1).

Presentation of Report

YUSUF ABDULKARIM BUCHEERI, Permanent Representative of Bahrain to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Head of Delegation, said Bahrain was committed to cooperating with the human rights treaty bodies and mechanisms and would discuss their report professionally and transparently.  No discrimination was tolerated in Bahrain, whether it be on the basis of gender or religion, with justice acting as the foundation of the State.  Mr. Bucheeri said he was proud that Bahrain was following a development path based on a clear vision with respect for human rights.  It was vital to promote economic, social and cultural development.  The efforts deployed by Bahrain were underscored, with health care being of particular importance as a priority of the development programme.  Bahrain had implemented several measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, through a specialised taskforce led by the Prime Minister.  The national vaccination campaign had been widely implemented with over 1 million individuals - over 81 per cent of the total population - vaccinated. 

Mr. Bucheeri said several measures had been undertaken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.  The World Health Organization had commended the efforts deployed by the Prime Minister of Bahrain to address the challenges of COVID-19 and had underscored the support Bahrain had provided in turn.  Bahrain’s development path had spread over decades, with an economic vision published, with the goal to double the income of families by 2030.  Extreme poverty had been eradicated and economic growth had risen.  Expenditure in the health care sphere had doubled and education was mandatory and free for all, with illiteracy combatted. 

A national model of equality had been adopted to ensure equal opportunities at the national level.  Women occupied 55 per cent of key posts and 35 per cent of the work force in the private sector.  Sixty-five per cent of citizens had benefited from services to provide housing, with more sustainable cities being constructed.  Renewable energy networks covered almost 100 per cent of the population.  Institutions and enterprises were working actively with women and young people.

Regarding the bolstering of economic and social rights, Mr. Bucheeri said the strategic national action plan was being reactivated to modernise Bahrain.  The education curriculum was being reviewed at all levels and was being updated.  A programme which focused on the respect of cultural and heritage sites was being implemented into the education system.  Efforts would be pursued to protect economic, social and cultural rights with all stakeholders, including civil society. 

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert welcomed the delegation of Bahrain and thanked them for engaging in the first constructive dialogue with the Committee, saying that from small first steps, major steps would come.  The Expert asked whether information could be provided on the current state of play concerning the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Was this underway?  Regarding business and human rights, had sanctions been planned for and applied to companies operating in Bahrain, which had resorted to abusive dismissals during the COVID-19 crisis?  The Committee Expert asked for examples of legal cases.  What was being done to protect the most vulnerable in society, including human rights defenders?  Human rights defenders had been ill-treated in detention.  What was being done to address this issue?  What was being done to protect journalists and bloggers who wrote on social issues? 

The Committee Expert asked for statistical data on voters to measure their weight in the various electoral districts.  Reports had been received of people being stripped of their citizenships due to their participation in demonstrations.  The Expert asked for information on this topic, including what steps would be taken to release political prisoners.  What indicators were being used to set the general threshold for poverty?  The Committee Expert asked what measures were being put in place to protect domestic workers, requesting more information.  How did the Government implement anti-discrimination criteria which had an impact on the rights of women, prisoners, persons with disabilities and migrants?  What measures were being taken by the State to ensure equality between men and women?  It was noted that women could not transmit their nationality to their children.  What measures were being taken to amend this?  The Committee Expert said there was a lack of mechanisms pertaining to women and domestic violence, asking if the delegation could address this.

Responses by the Delegation

In response to these questions and comments, the delegation said that Bahrain was making every effort to provide access to justice for all those who resided in the country.  Justice was guaranteed by law and the justice system and judges were fully independent.  There was free access to courts in Bahrain for all individuals.  The provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had been invoked in several cases in the Constitutional Court.

There was no wage gap between the two sexes in the labour market in Bahrain.  In 2013, a ministerial decree had been adopted to ensure equal social benefits at the time of marriage for women and men.  The Ministry would ensure equal opportunity in the budget for women.  Access to justice was ensured for all citizens, with the Criminal Code stating that women enjoyed the same rights as men and could go to the courts in their own name.  A unit for women existed within the Ministry of Justice which oversaw matters of divorce, It provided free legal assistance and advice, as well as reconciliation assistance in cases of dispute.  On domestic violence, the delegation said that a national strategy had been launched to protect women from family violence, which had several focuses.  A unified database had been established for identified cases of violence with a unified follow-up mechanism.  Offices were being established in all provinces specialising in preventative care and care for victims.  The law on nationality was not based on discrimination against women.  According to the law, foreign spouses of Bahraini women could receive a residency permit, while children of Bahraini women and foreign fathers could benefit from funds if they remained in Bahrain. 

Regarding the Paris Agreement on climate change, the delegation said that Bahrain had designed a number of adaptation projects and emission reduction measures.  Standards had been defined for the protection of the coast.  Following COP 26, Bahrain had committed to redoubling efforts in the renewable energy sector and ensuring carbon neutrality and reduced emissions by 2035.  Bahrain was the first Arab State committed to respecting the provisions of the Basel Convention, submitting regular reports on hazardous wastes.  Bahrain guaranteed the rights to freedom of expression for the press, as guaranteed by the law on information and the press.  The delegation emphasised that there were no journalists in detention in Bahrain and no political prisoners; no journalists were imprisoned for expressing their opinion. 

Legislation had been adopted to protect foreign workers, excluding no part of society.  Bahrain had a comprehensive and complete system which prohibited discrimination.  A regional centre in Bahrain provided services to all expatriates and immigrants which had been commended by many bodies in the region and beyond.  A digitised system was also in place which allowed workers to submit complaints if they considered themselves to be victims of abuse.  This enabled employees to recognise their rights and be provided with psychological support if necessary.  Bahrain worked in partnership with the countries of origin of foreign workers to ensure they were protected from exploitation or abuse.  Bahrain was firmly convinced of the need for prevention, which was why the current system had been implemented, guaranteeing the participation of civil society. 

Bahrain had put an investment in human resources at the heart of its policies, with the Government committed to ensuring education, health care and social protection, which made up a large part of the public budget.  The economy had invested a significant sum in social protection – around 14 per cent of the State budget, confirming Bahrain’s commitment to investing in human resources.

Follow-up Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert said that Bahrain’s responses could be provided at two levels, a more formal response, and a discussion on the practical reality.  The delegation was encouraged to focus on more day-to-day examples.  Could the delegation clearly answer whether Bahraini mothers were able to transmit their nationality to their children if the father was a foreigner.  It seemed the answer was no, but a clear response was requested.  The Expert also asked how lesbian, gay bisexual, transexual and intersex people were able to enjoy their rights.  It was also important to understand the issue of human rights defenders and their rights. 

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said nationality was a link between the State and the citizen, with citizens needing to prove their allegiance to the State.  Nationality could not be granted beyond the legislative framework, in line with international conventions.  A law governed protests and demonstrations, with guarantees and measures in place to protect public order and the public interest.  A law on reform and rehabilitation had been issued according to international standards, which organised work within prisons and the rights and duties of prison inmates.  A project was in place on alternative penalties which reflected the efforts of Bahrain to make progress towards protecting human rights.  The law offered people who had been deprived of their liberty the option to receive training and be reintegrated back into society. 

Concerning the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, there had not been a single trial on consensual homosexual relationships.  Trials had only taken place where practices occurred publicly or where the relationships were not consensual.  Bahrain had considered whether it was appropriate to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Covenant.  The Constitution indicated that the sovereignty of Bahrain and its territories could not be relinquished.  Children could be granted Bahraini nationality where the father’s nationality was not known.  Children who had foreign fathers were granted the same privileges as Bahraini children.  It was important to have an active civil society with space to perform its work.  Bahrain’s law allowed independent organizations to be set up to protect human rights.  Bahrain had nine civil society organizations registered under the law, with human rights defenders having full freedom to practice human rights.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert noted that Bahrain had implemented measures to create job openings, asking how the Government had adjusted the policies in place to reduce the negative impacts of the pandemic.  The Committee had received information from civil society which showed that discrimination against vulnerable groups existed in the workplace.  What indicators were in place for the State party to say that there were no disadvantaged groups in Bahrain?  Could the State party provide data on the unemployment rate?  What programmes and strategies were in place to reduce high unemployment rates, considering the pandemic?  The Committee Expert noted that foreign workers in Bahrain faced discrimination in the workplace, for example being excluded by their nationality or language.  What measures were being taken to end all forms of discrimination against foreign workers?  What measures were being taken to increase women’s participation in the labour market?  What measures were in place to ensure access to employment for migrant workers and what was being done to combat abusive practices in the workplace?  It was noted that a unified standard contract for domestic workers had been introduced, but this failed to promote decent working conditions.  What measures were being taken to end all forms of forced labour and to promote decent working conditions for domestic workers? 

The Committee Expert asked for more information on efforts to ensure the protection of the rights of migrant workers and to prosecute employers who violated these rights.  What measures were being taken to extend formal labour sector rules to domestic workers, including daily and weekly rest and overtime pay?  Would additional protections be introduced that especially targeted domestic work?  Could statistics be provided on the number of workers who were members of trade unions?  Were public employees allowed to form this own trade union.  The Committee Expert asked for information on services provided to people with disabilities.  The delegation was questioned about Bahrain’s intention to ratify certain instruments, including on the rights of migrants and their families and the protection of wages. 

Responses by the Delegation

YUSUF ABDULKARIM BUCHEERI, Permanent Representative of Bahrain to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Head of Delegation, providing clarification about discrimination on grounds of sectoral identity, said Bahrain was an open society which granted significant priority to peaceful coexistence.  This included equality among citizens in their duties, obligations and guarantees without any discrimination based on religion, race or origin, regardless of their religious affiliation.  There was no classification of citizens.  Bahrain was proud to have a just legal system which made it possible to appeal any discriminatory treatment.  The society rejected discrimination on communitarian basis.  Matters related to collecting data and statistics were not provided for in light of the political system. 

The delegation said that foreign workers in Bahrain benefited from free health services during the pandemic, with such services being increased for this group in a transparent manner.  Clear statistics were provided along with reference numbers, which reflected migrant workers fair access to health services.  There was no discrimination at all in respect to this group.  Foreign workers had access to vaccines.  Bahrain had never issued any decision on mandatory confinement, and economic activities had continued throughout the pandemic.  The airport had barely closed, and people had been able to travel to Bahrain without obstacles. 

The law had been amended concerning work for pregnant women and night work for women.  Decrees had been implemented on an aid package to ensure liquidity for the private sector.  This protected the labour market during the pandemic and the work programme continued to ensure stability for citizens.  A programme was launched to support work via micro-projects, helping small and medium sized enterprises.  Costs of rentals for tourist installations were exonerated for three months.  Ministries had taken preventative measures to avoid layoffs, which included inspections in the hardest hit sectors.  A team had been set up to recruit people who had been laid off. 

There was no distinction in Bahrain between nationals and foreigners, with all workers having the right to present complaints to the Ministry or courts.  Unions could address the Ministry directly, with complaints reviewed.  Fifteen disputes were settled out of court in 2021, with just one brought to the Ministry of Justice.  The unemployment rate was 5.9 per cent in 2021.  A system of social security was in place in Bahrain which protected unemployed people and those looking for work.

Addressing the topic of persons with disabilities, the delegation said that a package of rehabilitation services was provided to persons with disabilities.  There were 41 rehabilitation centres providing training to more than 1,400 students.  The safety of persons with disabilities was taken into account during the pandemic, and measures were taken to ensure the centres could resume activities in person, with smaller classes.  A decree to resume rehabilitation services was issued following a three-month suspension due to the pandemic.  Subsidies were provided throughout the pandemic to persons with disabilities.  A programme was in place to ensure that people with disabilities had access to employment, through harnessing their skills and helping them to find jobs in line with their abilities.

Addressing the topic of juvenile justice, the delegation said a law was issued which effectively cancelled the term juvenile delinquents.  Children were treated as children, with discussions instead revolving around reformative justice.  This was hailed as a pioneering step forward in the rights of children in Bahrain, which prioritised the best interest of the child.  This guaranteed proper care and treatment for children and protected their rights.  To further these progressive steps, centres for reformative justice for children had been set up to investigate cases where children had committed offenses after the age of 15.  A judicial committee for children was established, which included a variety of specialists.  Educational and social programmes were drawn up to assist children and protect them from abuse and exploitation.

Follow-up Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert said that the aim of the constructive dialogue was to find a solution to human rights violations.  Striking figures had been given relating to the legal framework in the country with progress to be made in certain areas.  The Committee Expert invited the delegation to work with the Committee on specific problems.  Questions were raised about violations against human rights defenders, and the Committee Expert specifically referenced the questions raised the previous day about cases of ill-treatment, stating that there had been no follow-up on these cases.  Further information was requested on how these cases were being dealt with more broadly. 

Responses by the Delegation

YUSUF ABDULKARIM BUCHEERI, Permanent Representative of Bahrain to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Head of Delegation, said that Bahrain had made huge strides in the field of human rights, but some aspects still deserved greater attention.  Certain cases needed to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

The delegation reaffirmed that the Kafala regime was prohibited in 2006, meaning foreign workers could work following authorisation from an employer.  These workers had the right to freely move around the country, and confiscating their passport was prohibited.  If it was discovered that the employer had the intention to limit the workers right to move around the country, measures would be taken against them.  Recruitment officers made regular inspections, ensuring there was no risk of exploitation or abuse.  Foreign workers could communicate with their embassies and civil society organizations and had the right to a registration number as soon as they arrived in Bahrain.  Programmes were in place for foreign workers, allowing them to benefit from assistance in housing, travel, emergency situations and guiding them to receive flexible authorisations.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert asked for more information on the number of domestic violence victims and a description of beneficiaries from social services.  Could more information be provided on the nature of the social assistance provided to needy families?  Could the delegation give the Committee more detailed information on the effectiveness of the law against domestic violence.  What were difficulties the Government was facing in combatting domestic violence?  The Committee Expert asked for more details on the draft law mentioned in the report in regard to persons with disabilities, asking if it had been adopted and what new provisions were in place, including for children.  Could the delegation provide the minimum age for legal marriage?  Had this been set by the law?  What measures were being taken by the Government to combat early and forced marriage?  The Committee Expert noted a discrepancy in the minimum working age for children in the report, asking for clarification if the minimum working age was 15 or 16. 

A Committee Expert noted that 10,000 Bahraini people lived in unsafe housing, asking for updated material on the poverty level and the criteria for updating it.  Could the Bahraini delegation tell the Committee the number of doctors per inhabitants and the breakdown of doctors in the public vs. private sector.  Could more details be provided on progress made and difficulties and shortcomings in the field of mental health?  What steps were being taken to ensure that migrant workers could enjoy the best mental health possible?  The Expert thanked the delegation of Bahrain for the constructive dialogue, noting the difficulties and challenges which must still be faced. 

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that a law had been established which related to all matters of the family.  The age of marriage was set at 16.  Women were married at an average age of 24 in Bahrain, a figure which had increased.  Executive measures were in place to prevent domestic violence, including preventative efforts and services.  The Ministry of Justice had issued a royal decree which ensured that family courts were housed separately.  Psychological, legal and other support was available for women who were victims of violence.  Women’s and children’s protection units had been established.  Lower figures of complaints had been lodged in support centres since 2020, which illustrated that programmes for women and women’s empowerment had been successful.  The rate of marriage had increased in Bahrain compared to 2019, highlighting the stability of marriage in the country. 

A non-governmental organization provided services at a centre to protect women from domestic violence.  A 24-hour hotline was in place at this centre for victims of domestic violence, providing medical and psychological assistance.  A centre for the protection of children was established in 2007, receiving complaints on violence or abuse in children and a shelter was also being developed.  These facilities provided various vocational training sessions, aimed at helping the child recover.  Children would not be questioned more than once through the centre if they were subject to violence. 

The delegation spoke about housing provided to low-income persons, saying that as a result of these services, there were eight housing groupings, which were provided to people of limited income.  These were issued based on the length of time people had been waiting, following their initial application.  These were proper housing communities with comprehensive urban planning. 

There were around 35 doctors to every 10,000 people in Bahrain, with the aim to reach 1 doctor per 1,500 people.  There were also a large number of nurses.  There was a clear relationship between the public and private health sectors, with 70 per cent of health services provided in the public sector.  Electronic files covered all sectors of Bahrain’s health care facilities, making it easy to access medical files anywhere.  The new health insurance law ensured that the private sector services were well integrated and high quality.  A decision was issued by the King of Bahrain on mental health which resulted in an increase in these services and the adoption of a draft bill.  Services available for mental health in Bahrain were for all age groups, including primary and secondary schools. 

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert commended the efforts of Bahrain in advancing education, noting that Bahrain had the highest literacy rate in the Arab world and the oldest education system in the Gulf countries.  The Committee had received information from other sources that all religious interpretations were taken from Sunni scholars, meaning that Shiites were obliged to study according to the Sunni teachings.  Did Shia students have access to Shia teachings.  It was noted that education was compulsory by law, with the Committee Expert asking what support was provided to students.  Was equal access to education enshrined in the national education system on grounds of gender?  The Committee Expert asked about the number of women and Shia students enrolled in public schools.  What measures were in place to encourage children with disabilities to access education?  The Committee Expert noted that the pandemic had been challenging on education, asking about the national policy and the measures Bahrain had put in place to ensure that education was continued, especially during lockdown.  What was the inclusive approach that the Government had adopted in this regard?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said a specialised centre had been established in Bahrain for children who had been separated from their families.  The Supreme Council for Women had set up a programme for awareness and rights in the family.  The constitution of Bahrain stipulated social protection for all citizens, with a Supreme Committee responsible for helping families who received social security.  Some 28,000 families had been beneficiaries of financial support last year, while social assistance and financial support had increased by 10 per cent.  A number of measures had been adopted during the pandemic, including an economic assistance package to strengthen the economy and protect employees. 

Regarding the protection of people with disabilities, the delegation said a supervised team was responsible for inspecting all 46 centres.  These legal officers complied reports and ensured that cases of violence were submitted to stakeholders.  A portal operated to receive complaints and proposals, including cases of violations and violence.  All cases were reviewed and sent to a specialised committee to study and take necessary follow-up steps. 

Follow-up Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert thanked the delegation for the information they had provided.  The Expert asked specifically about the situation of human rights defenders as a priority.  It was noted that asylum seekers with HIV/AIDS did not receive medical services in Bahrain and had to leave the country which was detrimental to their wellbeing.  What were the measures taken by the State to overcome these violations of human rights?  The Committee Expert asked whether information could be provided about the overall situation of overpopulation in prisons and how this was being regulated by the Government. 

Responses by the Delegation

YUSUF ABDULKARIM BUCHEERI, Permanent Representative of Bahrain to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Head of Delegation, said that in the case of human rights activists, Bahrain was determined to cooperate with Special Procedures and had replied to all questions.  These replies were communicated to the mandate holders.  The delegation said there had not been any accusation levelled in respect to human rights defenders, rather there were measures in the legislation which protected them and defined the framework of their work.  If there were excesses, the Prosecutor would take the necessary steps to uphold the law, whilst still protecting human rights.  Any allegations of abuse warranted appeals and investigations. 

On the question of health services for prisoners, the delegation pointed out that there was no overpopulation in prisons in Bahrain.  Health services were granted to prisoners in rehabilitation centres and throughout their incarceration.  Health services were granted to all patients held, without any discrimination.  There had been numerous cases where rehabilitation centres were visited by prisoners who required urgent medical treatment.  There were many independent bodies responsible for evaluating prison conditions in Bahrain, which could access prisons without any prior notification.  Some 7,000 complaints had been considered by these bodies which were able to carry out unplanned visits to assess detention conditions and make sure they were not abusive or inhuman.  A large number of recommendations had been received, implemented and accepted by the Ministry. 

The delegation reminded the Committee that there was a particular operational system for healthcare providers concerning communicable diseases.  If a disease was considered a health risk to the country, there would be restrictions.  People already in the country living with HIV would be granted healthcare just as any other citizens would.  There were guarantees for these people so they could live a full life with no discrimination, just like any other Bahraini resident.  The delegation said that the Middle East had received the top prize for complying with international standards for COVID-19 in sanitary conditions in prisons.  Persons infected in contact cases were isolated and those signed up for vaccination were vaccinated on par with citizens and residents.  Medical services provided to detainees for COVID were under the supervision of the Ministry.  Prisoners received PCR and rapid tests and underwent quarantine measures in the same way regular citizens would.  Prisoners and detainees received the same treatment in all areas, including follow-up and medication. 

There was no discrimination in education based on origin, race, language or sex.  All subjects in the curriculum were taught equally, including religion, with those who wanted to specialise able to join specific centres with similar educational systems.  More than 700 students had registered in each of these centres.  It was important to offer people academic, health, emotional and physical education, in line with the principles of Islam, and to promote a sense of belonging to the country.  This was applied to the curriculum and education was peace oriented.  People with disabilities were guaranteed rights to education and were given particular attention, with every effort made to integrate them in public schools.  The Ministry offered full facilities to help persons with disabilities learn and study and provide private education.  The Ministry aimed to expand the number of schools which could integrate students with disabilities.  Specially trained teachers were available with an approval to teach sign language in public schools as an option.  Devices such as wheelchairs, special computers and braille were provided to maintain the safety of these students and to help them to live on par with their peers.  Special bathrooms and buses were provided and adapted to these students.  This category benefited from annual scholarships adopted in the country.  Male and female students who excelled at school could be granted scholarships to study abroad. 

A number of preventative measures had been adopted during the pandemic.  A guidebook of preventive measures for school had been published which outlined the measures which must be taken to protect the health of students, teachers and staff while they were at the school.  These measures were coordinated with the World Health Organization.  Since the pandemic, the Education Ministry had ensured that education could continue and there were no breaks due to the pandemic.  School programmes had been adopted which stressed the primary subjects, with hybrid education adopted since 2020 and 2021.  An educational portal, YouTube and a special channel had been made available, including courses for people with disabilities, with classes on television for children who did not have computers.  The right to education was guaranteed for all students, regardless of their circumstances. 

YUSUF ABDULKARIM BUCHEERI, Permanent Representative of Bahrain to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Head of Delegation, said Bahrain was proud of what it had achieved in the education sphere.  The delegation said that the law allowed prisoners to continue their education, even to leave prison to take university exams.  Some 405 prisoners had registered for school this year.  Apprenticeships were available which allowed prisoners to learn a trade and be able to earn a decent income.  It was essential to ensure that prisoners were able to be reintegrated back into society.  A programme also existed for rehabilitating prisoners with drug problems.

Bahrain believed in the fundamental role of society to enhance the capacity of States.  Interactive content was created to allow the people in Bahrain to benefit from culture and all cultural rites.  Almost 90 per cent of cultural activities were available free of charge to the population through festivals and exhibits.  The activities were adapted under the COVID-19 protocol to allow the greatest number of people to attend.  Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, cultural activities continued.  Bahrain was convinced that cultural activities would strengthen openness and would be of mutual benefit and improve relations between Bahrain and other people of the world.  This would lead to greater progress and partnerships, thus supporting universal human values of justice.  Mr. Bucheeri said culture was the overall architecture putting the human being at the cornerstone of human rights.

Follow-up Question by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert noted that Bahrain was one of the seven Arab States which had ratified the Arab Charter and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, asking how discrepancies between them were balanced.

Responses by the Delegation

YUSUF ABDULKARIM BUCHEERI, Permanent Representative of Bahrain to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Head of Delegation, noted the commitment of Bahrain to the texts of the Arab Charter and the Covenant which had defined many commitments.  A member of the delegation spoke about the rights to housing, saying that Bahrain had a history of success in this area.  Bahrain was one of the first countries which had guaranteed access to housing to its inhabitants.   Many services were centred on citizens to ensure they could enjoy the best possible housing services.  The delegation drew the attention of the Committee to the fact that citizenship education had been taught in Bahrain since 2004, a model to be followed in the region.  Citizen education was an independent, standalone subject included in the curriculum, which heightened peoples’ awareness of human rights and broadened their culture through learning both Arabic and foreign languages.  This was considered a success story.  Despite difficulties brought on by the pandemic, distance learning had been organized which had benefited many students.  The whole society was invited to benefit from the online learning portal, which had 33 million visitors to the website, highlighting adaption to the COVID-19 restrictions, ensuring fair and appropriate access to all students.

The delegation said that Bahrain had presented its initial report in 2019 under the Arab Charter.  This was an Arab mechanism aimed at promoting and protecting human rights.  When Bahrain signed any instrument, it was committed to implementing its provisions.  Bahrain would not invoke national legislation to waive its international obligations.  Once international instruments were ratified, such texts become applicable in Bahrain and would then be viewed as an integral set of provisions.  These legislations were taken as a whole unit when interpretating legislation in the country. 

Concluding Remarks

LUDOVIC HENNEBEL, Committee Expert, said current affairs this week reminded all that the international equilibrium was fragile and dialogue was very important.  He thanked Bahrain for taking on the importance of this type of dialogue, saying important information had been provided, allowing the Committee to understand the progress which had been made.  Mr. Hennebel said the Committee was reassured that Bahrain would take all concerns raised seriously.  Regarding allegations on repressions of demonstrations, sanctions on bloggers and violations against human rights defenders, it was noted that the delegation had promised to continue dialogue on these points.  Mr. Hennebel said he appreciated this willingness to cooperate with the United Nations and they would work together towards better and broader human rights protection.

YUSUF ABDULKARIM BUCHEERI, Permanent Representative of Bahrain to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Head of Delegation, said that the delegation had enjoyed the rich dialogue and had much to learn from the substantive dialogue on the Covenant.  He thanked the Chair and the Committee Experts for the constructive dialogue and said that the Kingdom of Bahrain was working on implementing the provisions enshrined in the Covenant.  He reaffirmed the importance of supporting and promoting a culture of human rights, in order to have a civilised society where everyone enjoyed human rights under the rule of law.

MOHAMED EZZELDIN ABDEL-MONEIM, Chair of the Committee, said the initial report submitted by Bahrain had an important status and would act as a reference for progress Bahrain made on the Covenant.  The participation of a highly competent delegation made up of over 40 members was noted with appreciation.  Mr. Abdel-Moneim said Bahrain was a pioneer in the establishment of an Arab Court of Human Rights.  He thanked the Permanent Representative and the delegation, wishing them good health and prosperity, security and wellbeing to the country.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/02/comite-des-droits-economiques-sociaux-et-culturels-bahrein-prend

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Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the information media; not an official record.