War of words intensifies on Bahrain human rights

Human Rights Watch hits back at claims that it published 'biased and deceptive' report
Bahraini protesters hold placards. (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)
By Andy Sambidge
Fri 08 Mar 2013 12:17 PM

An international human rights group has hit back in a row with Bahrain's government over findings it published after meetings with officials and politial prisoners.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has responded to statements issue by the Bahrain Interior Ministry and Social Development Ministry following a visit by HRW representatives to Bahrain last month.

Bahrain claimed HRW had misrepresented what ministry officials said in meetings, contravened privacy and security restrictions in publishing photos and videos of meetings with political prisoners, and ignored significant reforms by the ministry in response to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report.

The Social Development Ministry issued a separate statement contending that references to the ministry in the Human Rights Watch report were “biased” and “deceptive".

But HRW said in a statement issued on Thursday that Bahrain had made "unfounded claims" and had failed to provide any example of any alleged misrepresentation.

The war of words centres on HRW's claims last week that Bahrain’s rulers had made no progress on key reform promises and had failed to release unjustly imprisoned activists or to hold accountable high-level officials responsible for torture.

HRW said it made the assessments after meeting with high-ranking officials and with political prisoners.

During a five-day visit, the first allowed to Human Rights Watch by the government in almost a year, three representatives met with interior minister Lt Gen Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, attorney general Dr Ali Fadl al-Buainain, and Nawaf Abdulla Hamza, head of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) responsible for investigating police excesses and command responsibility.

They also met Major Gen Tariq Hassan, the chief of public security, John Timoney, senior police adviser to the Interior Ministry, and representatives of the Social Development and Human Rights ministries.

Human Rights Watch’s visit was facilitated by the newly established Human Rights Ministry, it said in the statement.

Human Rights Watch said it hopes that Bahrain will soon resume its policy, discontinued in 2011, of allowing independent human rights monitors to enter the country and to monitor human rights developments.

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