Until just a few weeks ago Mr. Al Faihani was the Under Secretary of Human Rights, working directly underneath the Minister. He resigned from his position in order to be elected to the Advisory Committee, as regulations state all members should be impartial.
The committee is comprised of 18 members and is supposed to act as a “think-tank” to the Human Rights Council. According to the UN members serve in a “personal capacity” as “human rights experts”. It is believed that Mr. Al Faihani was elected to the position unopposed, helping to secure his election with a lack of any competition.
It is understood that after nominating himself he was questioned by the Bureau of the Human Rights Council about his independence and he was instructed to send a letter to the Bureau clarifying that he had resigned from his Government position, in order to prevent a procedural debate on the subject. However the Bureau made clear that he could still face questioning on this topic. It is not yet known whether or not this took place during the session today in which he was elected.
The fact that he resigned from his post less than a month ago seriously calls into question his impartiality. On 6th September 2012 Mr. Al Faihani led a delegation of the Human Rights ministry to inspect Bahrain’s Jaw prison. It was this visit that led to the claims from Bahraini media that Nabeel Rajab is happy with his conditions and enjoys luxuries that include a gym, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room. This is despite Nabeel’s own claims of mistreatment, dirty conditions and a lack of access to basic provisions.
Other previous roles held by Mr. Al Faihani include various Ambassador positions as well as a number of other positions inside the Foreign Ministry.
It comes as a huge concern that an individual involved with providing false claims about political detainees should now sit on an advisory committee of a world leading human rights institution. Rights groups had previously criticised the nomination of Al Faihani, describing it as ‘undermining the very notion of human rights.’
An open letter was signed by a number of NGO’s calling for the US to oppose his election. You can read that here
A recent statement circulated by Italian senator Marco Perduca, and signed by others, read, “The Advisory Committee is supposed to be an independent body, whose independent experts provide independent advice to the Council. Mr Al Faihani is clearly among Bahrain’s decision-makers and can by no stretch of the imagination be described as “independent”.
The election of Al-Faihani is clearly of great concern to many of those interested in human rights and must be seen as Bahrain’s response to the disaster it faced during the Universal Periodic Review. They will be hoping that this election will give them favour in avoiding further embarrassments or at least allow them to prepare better for future sessions.
Bahrain Justice & Development Movement expresses its severe concern with this election and believes that no body of the United Nations should contain members who have recently been a part of a Government that is responsible for major human rights abuses.