By Geoffrey Bew Published: 20th February 2008

BAHRAIN has fallen short of pledges to fulfil its obligations to protect human rights since joining the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in March 2006, says a report.

The document, complied by human rights activists, says the country has breached 11 separate commitments to improve freedom of expression, the right to justice for victims of crimes, sexual discrimination, the rights of migrant workers and the right to hold peaceful demonstrations.

It states Bahrain has also failed to make sufficient progress in the independence of the judiciary or in the respect of human rights in the fight against terrorism, racial and religious discrimination, poverty and the denial of economic rights.

The claims are made in a shadow report published by the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), now-dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR).

It will be submitted to the HRC, which is due to review an official submission from the Bahrain government on its human rights record.

Bahrain will submit the official report in Geneva on Monday and the 20-page document will be reviewed by the council on April 7.

However, human rights societies and Non-Government-Organisations (NGOs) in Bahrain plan to submit their own reports to the UN.

The HRC requires membership countries to embark on legislative and administrative reforms that contribute to the protection and consolidation of human rights.

But the joint BHRS, BCHR and IFHR report says that with the exception of some legislative and administrative actions, Bahrain's overall record does not meet pledges it made to the UN.

It claims the Interior Ministry uses excessive force against protesters and human rights activists, claiming many have been mistreated.

The report also alleges that allegations of abuse are not investigated, alleged offenders are not penalised and peaceful protests are often prohibited.

It criticises the judiciary, including the courts and Public Prosecution, for "refusing" to examine cases lodged by alleged victims of abuse.

The report also says there is an "urgent need" to form a national committee for truth and reconciliation, while commitments to improve the rights of migrant workers and tackle human trafficking have not materialised.

"The FIDH, BHRS and BCHR feel that special attention should be given to the plight of female migrant domestic workers, who work as domestic helpers and are not protected by the country's Labour Law," it says.

"Problems faced by them include long working hours, low salaries, late payment of salaries, poor and repressive living conditions and psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

"Extreme cases have seen women being trafficked into prostitution."

The report also alleges that institutional discrimination exists in Bahrain, claiming Shias hold only 18pc of high-ranking jobs in government.

The report states women continue to be discriminated against in the workplace and denied senior posts in both the private and public sectors, as well as criticises the lack of a Family Law protecting them from domestic abuse. It adds that despite being a wealthy oil state, wide sectors of the population are suffering from poverty - estimating that 10,000 families are seeking aid. geoff@gdn.com.bh

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