SALAM and NPWJ convene Conference to highlight sectarian division and discrimination of Shia in Bahrain

Brussels Press Club Europe, 22-23 April 2016

As part of their efforts to promote and protect Human Rights and democracy in the Middle East and in Bahrain in particular, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, in cooperation with No Peace Without Justice, organised a two-day conference under the title “Persecution of Shia in Bahrain”, which was held on 22-23 April 2016 at the Brussels Press Club Europe (Rue Froissart 95, B-1000 Brussels
About the conference Mr Philip Belau, the conference director said: "This conference aimed to address the barriers facing the promotion and protection of the Shia rights In Bahrain, and explore creative and practical solutions to end the discrimination against them. This conference was organized with the view that inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue is mandatory for the comprehensive implementation of their rights and the existence of adequate institutional and policy frameworks that can effectively contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against members of Bahrain-Shia, as well as promote their full equality and access before the law without any discrimination". Mr Belau added: "The conference took the format of Interactive Dialogue that was focused on prioritizing highly critical issues, identifying challenges, specific gaps and key recommendations to eliminate of all forms of discrimination against Bahrain-Shia".
In his opening remarks, Nicola Giovannini (NPWJ) said: “Using and cultivating sectarianism as a political instrument has been a common trend in Bahrain. This divide-and-rule strategy was adopted by the regime to delegitimise genuine demands of reforms as driven by particular or sectarian interests (and thus negate their national scope). Critically, this has also been reflected or translated into discriminatory practices and policies targeting (and thus segregating) the Shia community in Bahrain which composes the majority of the population. A State that wants to be considered as democratic cannot rely on such system which nurtures sectarian division. The purpose of this conference is to promote meaningful reforms aimed at ensuring that all Bahrainis, independently of their religious belief or community, are considered and consider themselves first and foremost as citizens of a state, equal in rights before the law and with an equal say in the matters related to the governance of public life”.

This conference discussed and explored the history of Bahrain-Shia struggle, the political challenges, current discriminatory mechanisms and patterns including unfair trials and arbitrary detention, and finally freedom of religion in Bahrain. The conference also considered the role of international and regional organizations, as well as non-State actors, including civil society, minority communities and religious leaders, national human rights institutions, political leaders and the media, in regards to this issue.
The expected outcomes of the conference are to identify actual and potential barriers to combat discrimination against Shia in Bahrain, shed light on effective measures to prevent the excessive use of force, unfair trial and arbitrary detention, lack of representation, and considering essential elements to guarantee inclusive, independent, impartial, transparent and accessible accountability, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms as a means to end discrimination. In addition to identifying measures to promote and respect cultural backgrounds and/or religious beliefs of witnesses during criminal justice proceedings as per established international instruments, such as the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, and providing substantive and tangible recommendations to be included in the thematic recommendation of the session. 


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