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?

A review of Amnesty’s report into the Ombudsman’s Office can be found here.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) was established by the Public Prosecutor in March 2012 in response to BICI recommendations 1716 and 1722, with a mandate to determine the criminal liability of officials responsible for physical abuse and other illegal acts. Following its investigation, the SIU can bring criminal charges against the suspected perpetrator and refer them for trial before the courts or refer the matter to another government authority to impose disciplinary sanctions.

Amnesty noted that “the powers of the SIU have increased since 2014 when the head of the SIU was given the rank of Attorney General, enabling him to refer criminal prosecutions directly to the courts for trial without first obtaining the PPO’s approval.”

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Action needed after the Financial Audit Bureau report

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In the past few years the Financial Audit Bureau has done a commendable job in highlighting shortcomings of Government institutions through its comprehensive annual reports, presented to the leadership and announced to the public.

While this is a step in the right direction for Bahrain’s reform efforts, there is a need for action and for the public to have confidence that there are real consequences for management shortcomings and corruption. 

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Analysis of the Financial Audit Bureau report – part 3

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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.

In its overview of government financial procedures, the FAB report extensively discussed the management of the national debt and concerns of a sharp rise between 2011 and the end of 2015, from BD 3.5bn to 7.2bn, representing approximately 60% of GDP.

The report also looked at project budgets allotted to departments by the Finance Ministry. In many cases ministries had only spent around half of their project budgets, despite certain ministries being overspent in terms of their total budgets. The report evaluated a range of these projects and raised criticisms about the effectiveness of expenditure.

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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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