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Resolution adopted by concensus by the IPU Governing Council at its 191st session*
(Québec, 24 October 2012)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Having before it the cases of Mr. Matar Ebrahim Matar and Mr. Jawad Fairuz Ghuloom, members of the Council of Representatives of Bahrain, which have been examined by the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, pursuant to its Procedure for the treatment by the Inter-Parliamentary Union of communications concerning violations of the human rights of members of parliament,

Taking into account the letters from the Speaker of the Council of Representatives dated 17 October and 3 April 2012, 26 June and 18 and 30 May 2011; also taking into account the information that the sources have regularly provided,

Considering that Mr. Matar and Mr. Ghuloom, both belonging to the Al-Wefaq party, were elected in 2010 and supported the call for political and social reform in Bahrain, and that they, along with the other 16 Al‑Wefaq parliamentarians, tendered their resignations on 27 February 2011 in protest at the government’s crackdown on demonstrations, which started on 14 February 2011, but that those resignations only became effective when the Council of Representatives accepted them on 29 March 2011,

Also considering the following: both individuals were allegedly arbitrarily arrested on 2 May 2011 by security forces and taken to different detention centres, where they were ill-treated and not allowed access to family and legal counsel; their families reportedly only found out what had happened to them when trial proceedings were suddenly started against them on 12 June 2011 before a special military court, the Court of National Action; at the hearing, the accused were informed that they were charged under Article 168/1 7801 of the Penal Code and Article 201/3090130 A/2 of Decree 18 relating to the participation and organization of meetings, assemblies and protests, as modified by Law 32 of 2006; both former members of parliament denied the charges; they were released on 7 August 2011 but the charges remained pending against them, 

Further considering that the Independent Commission of Inquiry appointed by the King of Bahrain to investigate alleged human rights abuses during the protests in the country officially presented its report on 23 November 2011 and concluded the following:

  • “The text and application of Articles 165, 168, 169, 179 and 180 of the Bahrain Penal Code raises questions about their conformity with international human rights law and the Constitution of Bahrain”; “the Government of Bahrain used these articles to punish those in the opposition and to deter political opposition”;

  • “In a substantial number of the arrests carried out by law enforcement agencies warrants were not presented to arrested individuals and arrested individuals were not informed of the reasons for their arrest”;

  • “In many cases, government security forces resorted to the use of unnecessary and excessive force, and in a manner that sought to terrorize individuals”; “many detainees were subjected to torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuse while in custody, which indicated patterns of behaviour by certain government agencies and that the extent of this physical and psychological mistreatment is evidence of a deliberate practice”; “the techniques used to mistreat detainees fall within the meaning of torture as defined in the United Nations Convention against Torture, to which Bahrain is a State Party”; “the lack of accountability of officials within the security system in Bahrain has led to a culture of impunity, whereby security officials have little reason to avoid mistreating prisoners or to take action to prevent mistreatment by other officials”,

Considering that, in this respect, the Commission recommended the following:
  • “All persons charged with offences involving political expression, not consisting of advocacy of violence, should have their convictions reviewed and sentences commuted or, as the case may be, outstanding charges against them dropped”;

  • “The allegations of torture and similar treatment should be investigated by an independent and impartial body, to be established in accordance with the Istanbul Principles regarding the effective investigation and documentation of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the investigation of these alleged violations should lead to the prosecution of the implicated individuals, at all levels of responsibility, with a view to ensuring that punishment is consistent with the gravity of the offence and that the onus of proving that treatment complies with the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment should fall on the State”,

Considering that, in his letter of 25 March 2012, the Speaker of the Council of Representatives stated that legislative steps had been taken to require the Prosecutor General to take action on complaints of torture and other forms of ill-treatment,

Also considering that, on 20 February 2012, Mr. Matar was acquitted and two charges against Mr. Ghuloom were dropped while a third, in connection with his alleged participation in an unauthorized gathering, was heard by the Court on 4 July 2012, which deferred the hearing to 3 September 2012 pending a decision on his complaint of ill-treatment, which is still being examined by the prosecution,

Also considering the following: according to the Speaker of the Council of Representatives, several proposals to revise existing laws have been approved with a view to bringing them in line with relevant international human rights standards, including enactment of Law No. 51 of 2012 amending Articles 168 and 169 of the Penal Code and adding Article 69 bis to the Code; according to the Speaker, the enactment of Laws Nos. 52, 49 and 50 of 2012, and the adoption of Royal Decree No. 130 of 2011, were intended to ensure effective punishment in the event of torture and to provide victims and witnesses with protection against threats and reprisals and with compensation,

Further considering the following: the members of the Bahraini delegation told the Committee during the 126th IPU Assembly (Kampala, March-April 2012) that the Inspector General of the Ministry of the Interior had been made fully independent, that interrogations by law enforcement officers were now filmed, that all persons responsible for human rights violations would be prosecuted, regardless of their rank, that a human rights committee had been set up in both chambers of parliament and that an independent national commission would follow up implementation of the recommendations of the Independent Commission of Inquiry; in response to these statements, one of the sources stated that the legislative proposals do not cover Articles 165, 179 and 189 of the Penal Code, which are related to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and that, moreover, the main issue is not the law itself, but the absence of fair-trial guarantees, as indicated by the Independent Commission of Inquiry in section 1722 of its report; the source also stated that no action has been taken by the Prosecutor General and that nobody has been charged with ill-treatment; the source affirms that the new Inspector General is in fact the same person and that there are no guarantees that he will be independent of the Ministry of the Interior; it points out that many complaints have been made against security forces but that no serious measures have been taken to satisfy the victims or deter violators; it affirms that the newly assigned ombudsman is a former prosecutor who was involved in many human rights violations documented in the Human Rights Watch reports entitled Torture Redux: the Revival of Physical Coercion during Interrogation in Bahrain and No Justice in Bahrain,

  1. Thanks the Speaker of the Council of Representatives for his constant cooperation;

  2. Is concerned, in the light of the Independent Commission of Inquiry’s conclusion that the Bahraini Penal Code was used to stifle political opposition, at the charge pending against Mr. Ghuloom; wishes to ascertain the precise facts underpinning the charge and to be kept informed of the proceedings;

  3. Is also concerned that, almost one and a half years after Mr. Matar and Mr. Ghuloom were allegedly ill-treated, the authorities have yet to hold those responsible to account; fears that this situation lends weight to the affirmation by the source that fully effective and independent institutions to address complaints of torture and ill-treatment are not yet in place; calls on the authorities, in line with their stated commitment to promote respect for human rights, to do everything possible to ensure swift and effective redress for both persons concerned; wishes to be kept informed in this regard;

  4. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the parliamentary authorities and to the source;

  5. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and to report back to it in due course.

* The delegation of Bahrein expressed its reservation regarding the resolution.
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