H.E. Shaikh Khalid’s Speech to the UPR in Geneva

September 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Earlier today, His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa – Bahrain’s Foreign Minister – addressed the UN Human Rights Council during the follow up session to its Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain. In his speech, Sh. Khalid not only outlined the Government of Bahrain’s full acceptance of 145, and partial acceptance of 13, out of 176 recommendations made by the UPR; H.E. also made a number of important points about the political situation in Bahrain and outlined a path forward in which all sectors of society can play a constructive role in resolving lingering differences in our country. I would like to share some particularly noteworthy passages with readers of my blog.

H.E. the Foreign Minister rightly notes that Bahrain’s government is only one actor in Bahraini politics and that progress and reconciliation require all political actors to renounce violence. In his speech, Shaikh Khalid said:

“Every person has the right to disagree with, or dissent from, their Government, and to state that disagreement or dissent publicly – and of course within the limits of orderly discourse in a democratic society. But no one has the right to force factionalism upon a society against its will. We welcome peaceful expressions of disagreement but not incitements to hatred and violence which damage the social fabric of a nation.”

It is also important to highlight, H.E. the Foreign Minister’s comments about the government’s reform initiative and the challenges that face it within Bahraini society.

“I now turn to the challenges we face. We have heard criticism: that we are ‘dragging our feet.’ It is true that significant challenges remain. Reforming government structures and restoring the culture of tolerance and understanding in all aspects of civic life takes time. It is difficult. Our leadership is committed, and already significant reforms are being felt.

“Challenges also reside outside of government. Some unfortunately believe that continued unrest on the street affords them a political advantage. To keep up the momentum and media coverage, they fuel the flames of extremism and violence. They reject dialogue. They should not be encouraged.

“No one could expect that an inclusive and tolerant system of politics will emerge if leaders of important groups seek dominance instead of dialogue and reject democratic institutions. Such attitudes, it must be said firmly, trample on the ideals of a society governed by the rule of law.”

I could not agree more with these sentiments. Bahrain has real issues that must be addressed. And while the government has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to address them in good faith, there has been no reciprocity – as it is said in a famous Arabic proverb, “one hand alone does not clap.” H.E. Shaikh Khalid’s speech in Geneva offers a genuine opportunity to move forward and it should be recognized as such by the international community.

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