MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Mar 31 (IPS) – The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an organisation whose motto is ‘For democracy. For everybody’, simply held its international meeting in a rustic with a mock parliament and never the slightest semblance of democracy.
For Bahrain’s authoritarian leaders, the internet hosting of the IPU meeting was yet one more reputation-laundering alternative: per week earlier than, they’d hosted Components One’s opening race.
The day after the race, Ebrahim Al-Mannai, a lawyer and human rights activist, tweeted that the Bahraini parliament needs to be reformed if it was to be showcased on the meeting. His reward was to be instantly arrested for tweets and posts deemed an ‘abuse of social media platforms’.
That very same week, the Bahraini authorities revoked the entry visas for 2 Human Rights Watch employees to attend the meeting.
Slightly than opening as much as host the occasion, Bahrain additional shut down.
A mock parliament and no democracy
Bahrain is member of the IPU, which defines itself as ‘the worldwide group of nationwide parliaments’, as a result of, on paper at the least, it has a parliament. However its parliament is neither consultant nor highly effective. Bahrain is an absolute monarchy.
The king has energy over all branches of presidency. He appoints and dismisses the prime minister and cupboard members, who’re accountable to him, to not parliament. The 2 prime ministers the nation has had thus far – the primary served for over 50 years – have been outstanding members of the royal household, and lots of cupboard ministers have been too.
The king appoints all members of the higher home of parliament, together with all judges. Parliament’s decrease chamber is elected – however the whole lot potential is finished to maintain out those that would possibly attempt to maintain the federal government to account.
Political events aren’t allowed; ‘political societies’, free teams with a number of the capabilities of political events, are recognised. To have the ability to function, they need to register and search authorisation, which will be denied or revoked.
Lately the federal government has shut down most opposition political societies, arresting and imprisoning their hottest leaders. All members of dissolved teams and former prisoners are banned from competing in elections. And simply in case new potential opposition candidates in some way emerge, voting districts are rigorously gerrymandered so the opposition can’t get a majority.
In November 2022 Bahrain as soon as once more went via the motions of an election. A lot of eligible voters have been excluded from the electoral roll as punishment for abstaining in earlier elections – a tactic used to make sure any boycott makes an attempt wouldn’t have an effect on turnout. Precisely because it was meant to, the election produced a legislative physique with no means to counterbalance monarchical energy.
No area for dissent
In 2018, the king issued a decree generally known as the ‘political isolation legislation’. It banned members of dissolved opposition events standing for election. It additionally gave the federal government management of the appointment of civil society organisations’ board members, limiting their means to function, and has been used to harass and persecute activists, together with by stripping them and their households of citizenship rights.
In 2017, Bahrain’s final impartial newspaper, Al-Wasat, was shut down. No impartial media at the moment are allowed to function. The federal government owns all nationwide broadcast media shops, whereas the principle personal newspapers are owned by authorities loyalists.
Vaguely worded press legal guidelines that impose harsh penalties, together with lengthy jail sentences, for insulting the king, defaming Islam or threatening nationwide safety encourage self-censorship. Many individuals, together with journalists, bloggers and others energetic on social media, have been detained, imprisoned and convicted.
This has turned Bahrain into a jail state. It’s estimated that just about 15,000 individuals have been arrested for his or her political beliefs over the previous decade, at the least 1,400 of whom are presently in jail. Most have been convicted on the idea of confessions obtained beneath torture. Appallingly, 51 individuals have been sentenced to demise.
An advocacy alternative
Given the IPU’s evident lack of curiosity within the human rights information of host states, civil society targeted its advocacy on parliamentary delegations from democratic states.
Forward of the meeting, two dozen civil society teams revealed a joint assertion addressed at parliamentarians who can be attending, urging them to publicly increase issues over Bahrain’s lack of political freedoms, together with violations of the rights of parliamentarians, and to make sure their presence wouldn’t be used to legitimise the authoritarian regime.
Civil society’s requires the liberty of political prisoners have been loudly echoed by parliamentary delegations from nations together with Denmark, Eire and the Netherlands, amongst a number of others.
The director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy described the occasion as ‘a PR catastrophe for the Bahraini regime’, a failure of its image-laundering plan.
The response of the Bahraini authorities was nevertheless removed from encouraging. They reminded overseas parliamentarians they shouldn’t intervene in Bahrain’s home affairs and continued to disclaim proof of imprisonment and torture.
Sustained worldwide strain is required to induce the Bahraini regime to free its hundreds of political prisoners and permit areas for dissent. That, fairly than high-level image-laundering occasions, is what’s going to repair the nation’s well-deserved dangerous popularity.
© Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights ReservedAuthentic supply: Inter Press Service