On 21 November, Amnesty International issued a 55-page report investigating two Bahraini institutions for addressing human rights abuses – the Ombudsman’s Office and the Special Investigations Unit. The report was entitled: Window dressing or pioneers of change?

Regarding the Ombudsman’s effectiveness Amnesty said: “The Ombudsman’s office appears generally to have fulfilled its mandate to investigate alleged human rights violations, make recommendations and refer relevant cases to the SIU or other authorities while also taking steps to increase its accessibility, improve its procedures and enhance transparency. It also claims to have resolved various issues related to the treatment of prisoners and detainees.”

The Amnesty report is useful in emphasizing the need to enhance the Ombudsman’s perceived independence; and consolidating the organization’s ability to rapidly investigate all allegations of abuse.

Amnesty is critical of Ombudsman Nawaf al-Moawdah’s failure to speak out publically on a range of human rights issues which are arguably outside his jurisdiction. In fact, the Ombudsman is right to avoid politicizing his position and to continue acting as a pragmatic investigator able to work effectively within the Bahraini system.

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Analysis of the Financial Audit Bureau report – part 2

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On 10 November 2016 the annual FAB report was issued, investigating failures in administration procedures in all public sector departments, ranging from cases of poor management to incidences of corruption potentially necessitating criminal action.

All departments are obligated to follow up and address the issues raised, with the most serious cases being referred to the public prosecutor. The report is also submitted to Parliament which each year reviews the issues raised and recommends actions to take.

Departments managed by the Ministry of Works, Municipalities and Urban Planning came in for criticism on a number of fronts: The management of rubbish was a significant issue; the lack of regulation of sand extracted from the sea bed raised a number of concerns; the oversight of municipal contracts and properties revealed a number of shortcomings; and also the management of agricultural, water and marine resources was also discussed at length.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism came in for criticism regarding its failure to enforce and test commercial standards and to effectively regulate trademarks and fake products. In 2015’s FAB report there was specific criticism of failure to effectively monitor meat imports so as to ensure compliance with international standards; failure to take action against illegally operating slaughter houses and failure to conduct adequate inspections of meat establishments.

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On 10 November 2016 the annual FAB report was issued, investigating failures in administration procedures in all public sector departments, ranging from cases of poor management to incidences of corruption potentially necessitating criminal action.

All departments are obligated to follow up and address the issues raised, with the most serious cases being referred to the public prosecutor. The report is also submitted to Parliament which each year reviews the issues raised and recommends actions to take.

The entries concerning the Supreme Judicial Council, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Culture and Antiquities Authority, the Customs Authority, the Information Affairs Ministry and the Defence Ministry were relatively brief and straightforward. The main issues cited related to overspending of budgets, combined with failures to complete projects within the budget period, often resulting in substantial underspend on project budgets; as well as irregularities concerning staff recruitment, bonuses and contracts.

The Justice Ministry entry noted a number of financial procedural failures, as well as expenditure of only 11% of the projects budget. The report cited incidents where fines and fees were waived in the absence of a clear procedure for doing so.

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A champion for women inside Parliament?

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Bahrain is in need of a strong legislative voice in support of empowering women, protecting their rights, and ensuring that families and children are protected by the law. 

This is necessary for consolidating the Government’s own efforts to secure legal protections for women. This is also vital for initiating and promoting new legislative proposals, such as the draft bills circulated within the Shura Council and the Council of Representatives at the end of the last legislative year for protecting victims of rape.

In order to achieve this, the elected Parliament’s Women and Children’s Committee was an initiative which came into being after 2012, with the mandate of acting as an advocate for women in the Parliament; supporting pro-women legislation; and standing up for causes in the interests of women.

On 8 November 2016 a vote was held in the Council of Representatives for membership of the four smaller permanent committees, each composed of five members. The resignation of Khaled al-Shaer after this vote left this committee with a membership of three MPs associated with the Salafist Al-Asalah society

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