Rights watchdog to challenge decision to suspend its board

September 9, 2010

Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) said that it would challenge a decision by the ministry of social development to dissolve its board and appoint an administrator until a general assembly is held.

The ministry on Wednesday said that it took the action after gathering evidence that the society, Bahrain’s oldest, was biased in its activities and favoured one section of society, an apparent reference to an alleged inclination towards Shiite cases.

The selective approach has resulted in several legal and administrative irregularities that warranted the action against the society, according to a ministry statement.

An official complaint by Bahraini journalists who said they were on August 28 abused and insulted at a conference organized by the society and attended by relatives of detainees prompted the scrutiny into the orientations of BHRS and other human rights groups, the ministry said.

The journalists said that they were abused when they asked the society leaders about their non condemnation of an assault on Muhannad Abu Zeitoun, the managing editor of Al Watan newspaper, and of the acts of arson and sabotage in Bahrain.

According to journalists, relatives of the detainees insisted that the conference was only to highlight their pains and started shouting at the reporters and abusing them verbally. 

However, BHRS disputed the journalists’ version of the conference events and rejected the ensuing criticism by columnists, lawmakers and the Bahrain Journalists Association, the umbrella for Bahrain-based journalists.

Last week, Fatima Al Beloushi, the social development minister, said that her ministry would take action against groups and societies that were discriminatory in their approaches and BHRS said that it wanted to hold a meeting with ministry officials to discuss the matter.

Following an emergency meeting on Wednesday evening of the society to discuss the decision to suspend the board, Abdullah Al Durazi, BHRS secretary general, said that the ministry should have referred its decision to the courts.

“We are not even aware of what the administrative and legal irregularities mentioned by the ministry are,” he said.

Three political societies, Al Wefaq, the Democratic Menbar and Waad, urged the ministry to reconsider its decision and reinstate the board.

BHRS was founded in 2001, a few weeks after the launch of political reforms that ushered in higher levels of freedom of expression and social activism. Its first head was Sabeeka Al Najjar, a former exile.

The society made history in the Arab world by becoming the first rights watchdog to inspect a prison and issue a report.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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