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Rights groups call for rejecting Bahrain's candidacy for presidency of UN Human Rights Council

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is seen on a TV screen while addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council on February 27, 2017 in Geneva. [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images]
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is seen on a TV screen while addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council on February 27, 2017 in Geneva. [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images]

A group of over 20 rights groups have called on Asia-Pacific bloc of countries to reject Bahrain's candidacy for the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In a letter sent, the rights groups said: "We the undersigned NGOs are writing to oppose consideration of Bahrain for President of the Human Rights Council (HRC) ahead of the upcoming meeting by the Asian Pacific Group."

The letter, which was published on the website of MENA rights group, read: "We contend that Bahrain's ongoing suppression of fundamental civil liberties, systematic violations of human rights, routine use of reprisals against activists, journalists, and human rights defenders and the government's steadfast refusal to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms renders it an unsuitable candidate for President of the HRC."

It stressed: "For these reasons, we strongly recommend that states of the Asian Pacific Group vote against Bahrain's bid for the Presidency."

The NGOs also said: "Despite Bahrain's occupying a seat on the HRC since 2018, the human rights situation in the country has continued to worsen."

"In 2017, Bahrain abandoned a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and has since executed six people, at least five of whom received unfair trials and alleged being tortured into providing false confessions."

In addition to this, the letter explained, "25 of the 27 individuals on death row in Bahrain have exhausted all legal remedies, placing them at imminent risk of execution."

READ: EU criticises 'dire condition' of human rights in Bahrain

"Over the past three years, Bahrain has intensified a crackdown on all forms of dissent, severely curtailing freedom of expression, assembly and association. Political opposition parties have been outlawed and their leaders jailed on questionable charges. The free press has suffered sustained attack."

"Torture continues to be widely used against opposition activists and human rights defenders, while Bahrain's judiciary remains dependent on coerced confessions to secure convictions."

"The crackdown on civil society in Bahrain is ongoing and the country features consistently in the Secretary General's reports on reprisals for cooperation with the UN in the field of human rights," the rights groups continued.

The 2020 report on Cooperation with the United Nations, stated that Bahrain's authorities use "arbitrary arrest, abuse and ill-treatment in detention" and intimidation has allegedly been exerted through "travel bans and restrictions to prevent engagement" with UN human rights mechanisms.

According to the NGOs' letter: "Since 2006, the government of Bahrain has refused to allow UN Special Rapporteurs and the High Commissioner access to the country. Notably, despite repeated recommendations, Bahrain has refused to invite the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

"In light of the country's deteriorating human rights record and its contempt for both UN treaties and mechanisms, the election of Bahrain to President would fundamentally undermine the integrity of the HRC."

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