By GEOFFREY BEW Published: 21st February 2008

BAHRAIN's human rights review, which will be officially unveiled today, has been billed as a four-year action plan to improve civil liberties in the country.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Nazar Al Baharna yesterday described the 20-page report as not just an overview of what has already been achieved, but a preview of what was to come.

However, he refused to reveal details of the document until it was officially published.

Dr Al Baharna was speaking at a Press conference at the Crowne Plaza's Bahrain Convention Centre to announce the launch of the report.

Government officials, diplomats, United Nations representatives and human rights activists were among those present, including British Ambassador Jamie Bowden, French Ambassador Malika Berak, Indian Ambassador Balkrishna Shetty and Iranian Embassy First Secretary Aboulghasem Vafaei.

Dr Al Baharna rejected claims by human rights activists that Bahrain had breached 11 separate UN commitments, including those to improve freedom of expression, the right to justice for victims of crimes, the rights of migrant workers and the right to hold peaceful demonstrations.

"This is not true," he said.

"It is their right to say what they want and we will listen to them.

"We may agree with some of what they say or we may not, but that does not make them right and us wrong."

Bahrain will submit the official report in Geneva on Monday and the 20-page document will be reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council on

April 7.

"We don't just look at it as a report, we look at it as an action plan," said Dr Al Baharna.

"Human rights are not like a switch, you cannot switch it on and off, it requires time.

"Maybe the report is not 100 per cent perfect, but it is a step forward."

The Bahrain Human Rights Society has already submitted a joint shadow report to the Human Rights Council with the dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights.

But assistant general-secretary Dr Abdulla Al Deerazi said the organisation planned to submit an annex report based on the government's review, if it felt any crucial information was omitted.

geoff@gdn.com.bh

© Gulf Daily News