Bahrain: Universal Periodic Review – Urgency needed to address continued erosion of fundamental rights

11 November 2022

London / Beirut

Bahrain: Universal Periodic Review – Urgency needed to address continued erosion of fundamental rights

The Government of Bahrain (GoB) should immediately signal that it will act on state recommendations to suspend the death penalty and release prisoners of conscience and political prisoners unfairly tried in previous years.

On 11 November 2022, in response to the adoption by the UN’s Human Rights Council of the report relating to the statements and 245 recommendations set out by 92 of the UN’s 193 states, the GoB stated that it will set out its response and action at the UN’s 52nd session of the Human Rights Council, at the end of February 2023. Under the rules of the UPR, it is entitled to delay its response until that time.

Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR) believes that this is far too late. SALAM DHR urges the GoB to act immediately to:

  • Suspend executions in the country with a view to voting for; or abstaining in the December 2022 vote expected in the UN General Assembly, which will call on states to end the use of the death penalty;
  • Immediately release all prisoners of conscience and long term political prisoners who have no recourse to fair trial; and
  • End restrictions on association and assembly, notably in advance of the 12 November national elections.

Over 20 states called for the end of the death penalty; up to approximately 20 called on Bahrain to end restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly. They also called on Bahrain to free prisoners of conscience  and end harassment of human rights defenders. A further 10 (approximately) called for support of migrant workers.

One state – Cyprus – called on Bahrain to “Integrate a rights-based approach in climate mitigation policy and disaster risk reduction plans”.


On 7 November 2022, 92 states delivered statements, along with 245 recommendations, to representatives of the GoB at the 4th Cycle of the cyclical, state-led, peer review of Bahrain’s human rights record known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Representatives of three states – the ‘troika’, Czechia, Gabon and India – are responsible for the compilation of the report.

States made a wide range of recommendations that related to cooperation with UN human rights bodies – as Bahrain does not currently allow visits by UN human rights experts:  gender equality and citizenship, administration of justice, discrimination, disability, improving the health sector, accountability, including by strengthening national oversight bodies, children’s rights, cultural heritage, promoting and protecting civil society, ratifying the Rome Statute and joining International Criminal Court, training state officials in human rights; in relation to Bahrain’s National Institute on Human Rights, trafficing and prison conditions, human right education and restorative justice.

Amongst the chronologically-ordered list of recommendations issued by the United Nations, included the following comments, set out below only to give a sense of the discussions (the UN will circulate the collate report on 20 November 2022):

Ending the death penalty:

  • Argentina – Promptly restore a moratorium on the death penalty and consider pardoning all those on death row, as well as suspending and commuting their sentences.
  • Armenia – Consider ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
  • Australia – Immediately implement a formal moratorium on the death penalty with a view of its abolition.
  • Belgium – Ensure that the death penalty is not under any circumstances imposed in violation of the guarantees provided for in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • Brazil – Abolish or adopt an official moratorium on the death penalty and replace it with other punishment measures in line with international human rights obligations.
  • Canada – Declare an immediate official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
  • Cyprus – Consider reinstituting a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
  • Finland – Abolish the use of death penalty and as a first step to immediately establishing an official moratorium on executions and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • France – Establish a moratorium on the application of the death penalty, which has not been applied for three years, with a view to abolishing the death penalty for all offences.
  • Iceland – Abolish the death penalty and reinstate an immediate moratorium on executions.
  • Switzerland – Reduce the number of crimes punishable by death and limit them to the most serious crimes, in accordance with Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Ending Torture:

  • Australia – Comply with the Convention against Torture, including by ensuring all detainees are fully protected against torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.
  • Austria – Ensure that perpetrators identified in the course of fully impartial and effective investigations into torture and ill-treatment are prosecuted.
  • Botswana – Ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
  • Lithuania – Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
  • Nigeria – Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

Freedom of Assembly, Association and Expression; Right to Take Part in Public Life (Political Rights):

  • United States of America – Remove restrictions on peaceful assembly and association by eliminating the continuing prohibition on public demonstrations and allowing political societies to engage in meetings without restriction; [and] release all persons detained solely for the exercise of their right of freedom of expression and their right to peaceful assembly and repeal all legislative provisions criminalizing the exercise of these rights.
  • Australia – Uphold the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including by ending detention of people for expressing views critical of the government and ending the ban on protest.
  • Belgium – Amend the provisions in Decree Law No. 47 that criminalize defamation, blasphemy and criticizing public officials, and promulgate a new media law that fully enshrines the right to freedom of expression.
  • Canada – Amend legislation with a view to lifting restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and to freedom of peaceful assembly.
  • Costa Rica – Respect fully the freedoms of expression, association, religion or belief of all people, without discrimination.
  • Czechia – Stop the prosecution under extensive anti-terrorism laws of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society organizations for exercising their fundamental rights; [and] allow all citizens to freely exercise their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly without restrictions.
  • Germany – Reduce restrictions on peaceful assembly and association and protect the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as freedom of assembly in accordance with international obligations.
  • Iran – Guarantee all citizens and political parties the right to participate in public affairs and in political life.
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – Move quickly to pass the much-delayed Journalism and E-Media Law, to ensure stronger protections for journalists and to enhance wider media freedoms.

Protecting Human Rights Defenders:

  • Denmark – Release all arbitrarily detained persons in Bahrain, including the Danish-Bahraini citizen Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja imprisoned for more than 11 years; a victim of torture who needs treatment and rehabilitation.
  • Estonia – Conduct impartial, thorough and effective investigations into all cases of attacks, harassment and intimidation against civil society activists, Human Rights Defenders, journalists and media workers.
  • Ireland – Immediately release all opposition activists, journalists, human rights defenders and other individuals arbitrarily arrested, including for exercising their right to freedom of expression or association; [and] create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society organizations and human rights defenders, including child human rights defenders.

Engaging with United Nations Bodies and Enacting the National Action Plan on Human Rights:

  • Uzbekistan – Ensure the effective implementation of the National Action Plan and recommendations of UN treaty bodies.
  • Yemen – Continue efforts to strengthen the role of national human rights mechanisms and to implement the projects contained in the National Human Rights Plan, which aim to maintain and respect human rights at all levels in Bahrain.

Protecting Migrant Workers

  • Vietnam – Continue its efforts to promote and protect the rights of migrant workers, particularly women migrant workers, with a view to protecting them from all forms of exploitation and ill-treatment.
  • Bangladesh  – Continue to protect the rights of foreign workers, particularly female migrant workers, to ensure equal treatment for them.
  • Egypt – Continue efforts to ensure the safety, security and dignity of foreign workers, including domestic workers.
  • Indonesia – Strengthen measures to protect and ensure the rights of migrant workers.
  • Nepal – Strengthen measures to ensure the safety, security, and dignity of migrant workers, including domestic workers.
  • Philippines – Continue enhancing  frameworks for the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of migrant workers, especially women and household service workers, and consider ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) of the International Labour Organization.
  • Sri Lanka – Continue to strengthen labour law protections for migrant workers and provide enhanced access to effective legal remedies.

For further information:

  1. Jawad Fairooz – @JawadFairooz – English, Arabic
  2. Drewery Dyke – @drewerydyke – English