I just received the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Bahrain's submission to its session in Geneva last week (read my previous posts on the topic: 1, 2, 3). The CERD's comments provide quite a comprehensive list of steps that need to be taken to tackle the very serious issue of racial discrimination in Bahrain. I can't find an online link to the CERD document right now, so I'll paste a few of the points below. (I'll update with a link as soon as I find it).
First is the reply to Labour Minister Al-Alawi's silly claim that discrimination is non-existent in Bahrain:
The Committee expresses its concern over the representations made by the State party that there is no racial discrimination in Bahrain.
The Committee, considering that no country is free from racial discrimination, reminds the States party that it is required under the Convention to take legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures to give effect to its provisions, even in the apparent absence of racial discrimination.
And on a related note:
The Committee regrets that no statistics were provided on cases where the relevant provisions of domestic legislation concerning racial discrimination were applied.
The Committee recommends that the State party consider whether the lack of formal complaints may be the result of the victims' lack of awareness of their rights, lack of confidence in the police and judicial authorities, or the authorities' lack of attention, sensitivity, or commitment to cases of racial discrimination. The Committee requests that the State party include in its next periodic report statistical information on complaints lodged, prosecutions initiated and the outcome of cases involving racial or ethnic discrimination, as well as specific examples of such cases.
Regarding discrimination against the Shia:
The Committee notes with concern the reported disparate treatment and discrimination faced by members of some groups, including in particular the Shi’a that may be distinguishable by virtue of their tribal or national origin, descent, culture and language; the Committee is concerned especially about apparent disparate opportunities that are afforded to such groups.
I'm also very pleased that the CERD has taken note of the situation of migrant workers, particularly maids:
The Committee is concerned about allegations of substantial prejudice against women migrant domestic workers, in particular those coming from Asia, especially as regards their working conditions, and about the fact that these women do not benefit from the protection of the labour code.
In light of its general recommendation XXX and of its General Recommendation XXV on gender related dimensions of racial discrimination, the Committee requests the State party to take effective measures to prevent and redress the serious problems commonly faced by female domestic workers, including debt bondage, passport retention, illegal confinement, rape and physical assault, and to report on measures taken for the protection of their rights.
Regarding naturalization through marriage:
The Committee, noting the information provided regarding the acquisition of nationality, is concerned that a Bahraini woman is unable to transmit her nationality to her child when she is married to a foreign national, and that a foreign man is unable to acquire Bahraini nationality in the same manner as a foreign woman.
The Committee requests the State party to consider the possibility of modifying these provisions in order to conform to article 5 (d) (iii) of the Convention. In this connection, it draws the attention of the State party to general recommendations XXV and XXX which requests State parties to ensure that particular groups of non-citizens are not discriminated against with regard to access to citizenship or naturalization.
Now let's hope that the government will stop denying everything and will try to address these issues with sincerity.