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CIVICUS welcomes UN officials' move to defend Bahrain activists

Johannesburg. 29 May 2012.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation salutes the bold and courageous action of UN Human Rights Council President, Laura Dupuy Lasserre, in asking the government of Bahrain to commit not to harassing or abusing civil society activists present at the current UN human rights meeting in Geneva.

The current UN Human Rights Council's universal periodic review (UPR) process saw Bahrain's human rights track record called into scrutiny by other governments. Civil society members therefore came to Geneva for the Human Rights Council meeting to lobby and speak out against Bahrain's appalling human rights record and treatment of civil society activists, which has seen arrests, imprisonment, torture, violence and other forms of harassment.

During the UPR Working Group Session for the adoption of the report on Bahrain, held during the 13th session of the UPR on 25 May 2012, Ambassador Lasserre made the call for Bahrain's government to commit to not harassing those activists present who were calling attention to their continuing human rights abuses. She pointed to several articles that were written by pro-government media defaming activists as traitors and calling for action against people present at the Geneva meeting on their return to Bahrain. She called out the names of those present in Geneva to explicitly seek commitment to their protection.

CIVICUS' representative at the UN in Geneva Renate Bloem, who was present at the meeting, reports, "Predictably, she was immediately attacked by other repressive governments, in a manoeuvre which threatens to sap the momentum of her call."

While Bahrain's government remains in denial of its ongoing human rights violations, civil society continues to speak out, often at considerable personal risk. In Geneva, civil society organisations such as the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) remained determined to hold Bahrain's government to account. BHCR joined with CIVICUS to submit civil society critique of Bahrain's human rights record into the UPR process, and worked with CIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development to hold a meeting in Geneva to draw attention to the situation in Bahrain.

"Civil society, and anyone with an interest in Bahrain, must welcome and support Ambassador Lasserre's remarks, and defend her right to do so," adds Renate Bloem. "Such actions are entirely in line with the UN Human Rights Council's remit to scrutinise human rights records, and are a continuation of similar actions by past Human Rights Council Presidents. We can see in this a clear acknowledgement that the Human Rights Council cannot fulfil its mandate without strong civil society voice, and the upholding of conditions where civil society is free to speak and play its vital part in holding governments accountable, without risk to activists' safety and liberty."

CIVICUS is a legally registered non-profit 501 (c) (3) organisation, EIN 52-1847010 (USA)

CIVICUS is a registered non-profit organisation, registration number 029-864-NPO (South Africa) 

As a signatory/member to the INGO Accountability Charter CIVICUS is committed to upholding the highest standards of professional conduct and accountability.

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