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Press Conference Statement Regarding the Launch of the “Civil State Document” and Waad’s Vision
Categary : Statements

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2016-05-28 10:44:33




Ladies and gentlemen,

Journalists and colleagues in the press,

Leaders of political and civil societies,  

 

Good morning,

 

Welcome to the National Democratic Action Society (Waad).

 

We are pleased to launch today in this press conference the “Civil and Democratic State” document along with Waad’s vision. This document comes as an implementation of the decision that took place during the Seventh General Conference of the organization, held on the 16th and 17th of October, 2014, which took as its slogan "A civil and democratic state: Our path to liberty and national unity". This intensive document launched today represents our vision for a Bahraini civil state and is the prelude to a wide comparative research to be completed at a later point in time. From this document emerges "Waad’s vision for an accomplished national reconciliation," with the slogan, “Returning to the spirit of the National Action Charter to build a civil, democratic and modern state".

 

First: The Civil Democratic State in Bahrain

This document contains an introduction about the concept of civil and democratic states that are known and practiced today. This concept has come as a product of the development and conflict that many different societies have experienced throughout time, and the various types of statehood that they have seen at different stages of their political and social histories.

We in the National Democratic Action Society (Waad) uphold this very concept of a democratic civil state; a constitutional state based on a multiparty political system and based on a diversity of intellectual beliefs. This concept, of course, steers far away from that of a partisan state, whatever its model may be, which is based on persistent discrimination between citizens on tribal, religious or sectarian grounds.

 

A civil state does not mix religion with politics. At the same time it does not stand hostile to religion, neither does it reject it. Instead, it considers religion as an integral part of life and its freedoms. It embraces and represents all of the ideological, intellectual, political, ethnic and racial components of society. Such a state refuses the use of religion for political ends as it would be contrary to the principles of diversity and democracy upon which the civil state is built.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A civil state necessitates that the social contract among people be of a civil nature, not ideological or tribal. It necessitates a role of the state that organizes the common life among people, managing co-existence and differences between its components in order to prevent conflict and chaos, not to mention safeguarding the respect of individual freedoms in public life. Moreover, it is the duty of a civil state to protect its citizens’ religious rituals and to regulate the consequent collective ideological behavior. Since the preservation of security is also one of its core functions, such a civil state also retains the right to intervene whenever public safety is at risk, reinforcing the principle of "security for all" as is aligned with the principles of human rights.

 

We define the following principles for the establishment of such a civil and democratic state:

 

  1. Citizenship: The foundation of the civil state hinges on the concept of citizenship that synthesizes modern experience and wisdom. The most important of such values is that of equality among citizens, rejecting all forms of discrimination based on religion, race, sex and language. This value also extends to equality in rights and duties, equality in freedom and participation in public life. A civil state that does not have at the core of its institutions and legislations such values, and instead discriminates between its citizens cannot succeed nor continue.

 

  1. Democracy: The establishment of a civil state necessitates the implementation of democracy, which is the core of the state upon which it relies, coming not only as a method of governance but also as a culture in itself. Democracy comes as a system of institutions that embodies the universal constitutional principle of "people are the source of all powers". Democracy comes as a political system; a learnt process from human experience after years of strife and conflict. It comes to institute the  superior values of accepting the other, of participating in the country’s management as guaranteed by the freedom of expression, of accepting political pluralism, of the right to political activism, of the right to publically state ideas and demands and, finally, of intellectual freedom. Such a democracy would guarantee the right to publicize and spread political beliefs and opinions to the public, under the rule of law, without violence and without governmental bias or affiliation to any party that uses violence or force against the other.

 

  1. Separation of powers: The principle of separating the three branches of power in the state, i.e. the executive branch, the legislative and the judicial, has been one of the most important results of political conflict in Europe since the era of the renaissance. This principle has, throughout time, practical experience and continuous improvement, become the foundation of a civil, democratic state that the West has established. Moreover, it has become an effective tool in the struggle against tyranny, absolutism and totalitarianism that was practiced by the branches of governance. This principle has become the road on which a society can become a democratic state; where people through their elected representatives constitute a legislative power with oversight on the executive branch, permitting still periodical rotation of its members. The judicial authority’s role in this context is to prevent the two other powers, particularly the executive branch, from encroaching on the rights of the people, as well as resolving disputes between the authorities or between state institutions and individuals, as is determined by the laws put forth by the elected legislative authority.

 

 

 

 

  1. Women's rights: Attaining equality between women and men and eliminating discrimination between them is at the heart of the civil state. Women's rights are an integral part of human rights. Discrimination against women existed in the past as a result of prevailing patterns of social relations and the type of culture that dominated during those times. However, it is linked to a certain epoch of time away from which the world has moved, overtaken today by the type of societal development and progress that have limited, if not eliminated, such discrimination. It becomes necessary today to develop the type of civil laws that situate women well in society, such as the Bahrain’s Family Law, in order to eradicate injustice against women, regulate marriage, divorce, general family and child-custody relationships, not to mention the importance of committing to international treaties regarding women, particularly that of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

 

  1. International human rights laws: The principles that are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represent the core of the modern philosophy upon which the civil state is built. Among the most important of these principles are: human liberty, equality between citizens in dignity and rights, the obligation to treat one another in the spirit of fraternity, the right to enjoy our duties and obligations without discrimination and equality in front of the law, not to mention freedom of thought, of conscience, of religion, of opinion and of expression. These principles have been strengthened by the International Covenants  on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, not to mention numerous other treaties such as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It has become a requirement for modern, civil and democratic states to adhere to and uphold these principles.

 

 

Statehood in Bahrain

 

All of the constitutional texts concerning the state and the pillars of society in Bahrain, as have been established by the will of the people and of the government represent, without doubt, the ambition of the Bahraini people towards a civil and democratic state, as aligned with modern human experience in state and country building. Such an ambition does not contradict, neither does it prevent, the particularities of Bahrain’s hereditary monarchy, which is guaranteed by the concept of a constitutional monarchy and established in numerous democracies around the world. This is covered in the National Action Charter that was adopted through a popular referendum on the 14th of February, 2001 and during the continued validity of the 1973 constitution. 

 

However, the developments of the past 14 years have lead to numerous political complications and essentially provoked the popular movement of February 2011. This movement has highlighted core deficiencies in achieving the people’s ambitions towards human rights, towards social justice, sustainable development, and towards peaceful resolutions to societal conflicts through real reform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second: Waad’s Vision for an Accomplished National Reconciliation

Returning to the spirit of the National Action Charter to build a civil, democratic and modern state

 

Context

 

The Arab region today is witnesses a time of much turbulence characterized by wars, belligerency and the ultimate fight over identities. This struggle has taken tribal and sectarian forms, masking the Arab world’s real fight for freedom, democracy, social justice and respect for human rights. This situation necessitates the need to rectify this path towards the more crucial national issues of the region and towards the Palestinian cause.

 

At a time like this, Bahrain, being a part of this Arab world, continues to suffer from a political and constitutional crisis spanning more than four decades. This crisis essentially began when the first popular constitution that represented the stepping stone of the transition towards democracy was put to a halt, bypassing the people’s desire to establish a parliamentary regime and to establish the very basics of a proper social contract, with little real political alternative to be seen for decades later.

 

Fifteen years after the National Action Charter, a referendum that received an unprecedented landslide vote from the Bahraini people on the 14th of February, 2001, therefore lifting Bahrain’s political reforms to the top of the agenda, the country continues to suffer from a political and constitutional crisis; its financial capital is drained and reforms are put to a halt all-together.

 

The Crown Prince’s seven-pillar initiative proposed on the 13th of March, 2011 to resolve this political and constitutional crisis was met with positive response by Waad and the country’s national democratic opposition. Indeed, the opposition has presented numerous documents and other initiative afterwards that took at their base the Crown Prince’s initiative, holding firmly those principles that unify the country and emphasizing the need to find a solution to the political crisis and its devastating consequences on human rights, on the economy and on people’s well-being.

 

Despite the political negotiations that took place in 2011, 2013 and 2014, little can be said about reaching tangible results on the ground. The public remains absent in deciding the country’s reform path that could have been put forward through a comprehensive democratic constitution and national accord.

 

Waad fully comprehends the delicacy of Bahrain’s location as the geopolitical center of the Arabian Gulf; a location that undoubtedly requires caution and attentiveness so as not to fall into the very troubles from which the region continues to suffer, therefore preserving civil peace, social stability and national security. Indeed, it is this understanding upon which Waad’s political activism operates, holding the unshakable belief in peaceful opposition, not only as a strategic choice but more importantly as the very foundation of our principles, recognizing that differences and conflict in Bahrain should be resolved through peaceful methods, denouncing and rejecting violence and terrorism, wherever it comes from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bahrain’s national unity was determined in the past in two key moments. The first was the time when all of the Bahraini people, as diverse as they are, voted for the arab nationality of Bahrain and the country’s sovereignty and independence in 1971. The second was the time when they voted yet again with unprecedented participation for the National Action Charter in 2001. This solidarity is the pillar with which we could overcome our challenges and the region’s challenges and through which we could fight sectarian conflict. Such national unity is what guarantees the preservation of the very fabric of society, of its civil peace, of its social stability, resisting any form of foreign interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs.   

 

Finally, an assessment of Bahrain’s situation could not ignore the current economic crisis, a crisis that has erupted most noticeably with the fall of oil prices, exacerbating government deficits and augmenting public debt. Such a crisis and its ensuing consequences have provoked the downgrade Bahrain’s credit rating by international agencies, remarkably increasing the burden of servicing the country’s debt in the hundreds of millions of dinars, all at a time of widespread corruption and governance deterioration.

 

Vision and roadmap

 

Our view of the situation in Bahrain highlights the importance of agreeing upon a road map towards a real and sustainable political solution. This could only be achieved through a serious dialogue that includes all parts of society and that aims at results that benefit all of Bahrain.

It is our ambition to help build a civil, democratic and modern state of Bahrain, a state that upholds international conventions and treaties of human rights, that believes in liberty, democracy and equal citizenship for all, that raises the status of women and guarantees their equality with the man, removing all reservations on treaties like CEDAW and reflecting its elements in the law and legislations of the country, therefore eradicating all forms of discrimination, exclusion and marginalization.

 

In light of all the above, and as a way to further extend and link our vision for a civil state, the Waad proposes this practical roadmap to set the environment for a national reconciliation in the spirit of the National Action Charter, ultimately building a civil, democratic and modern state that represents a comprehensive and sustainable political solution for the country. We summarize our roadmap in the following points:

 

  1. Return to the spirit of the National Action Charter that has boded a constitutional monarchy similar to that of well-established ones today, and that has stated clearly that the country’s regime is a hereditary constitutional monarchy of democratic governance, where sovereignty resides in the people, the source of all powers.

 

  1. Consider the Crown Prince’s seven-pillar initiative as the foundation upon which all dialogues and negotiations are based in order to establish a roadmap towards resolving the political crisis. This would take into consideration at the same time the documents and initiatives that have long been proposed by the opposition, which have been, as mentioned above, based on the Crown Prince’s initiative and the National Action Charter, with the purpose of reaching common views and paving the road towards a fruitful dialogue.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Facilitate the road towards the dialogue through a government-initiated political openness and security appartus relief, beginning with the release from prison of all children, women, elderly, student and the chronically-ill, as well as the release of prisoners of opinion and conscience, all the way to the real implementation of the fact-finding commission’s recommendations.

 

  1. Agree on a draft of transitional justice and national reconciliation (Waad had provided such a document in 2005 as well as during the National Dialogue of 2011).

 

  1. Agree on an accurate and detailed assessment of the economic situation and its consequences on the well-being of citizens including the ensuing social crisis, and institute serious processes to fight financial and administrative corruption in the country in a way that aids the recovery of the economy and establishes social justice. 

 

  1. Form a joint committee between the government, the opposition and the civil society organizations agreed upon by the first two, in order to inspect and review the real extent of implementing the recommendations of the fact-finding commission (the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry (BICI)) as well as the recommendations of the International Human Rights Council, and assess the extent to which current legislations reflect the principles of the constitution and those of international conventions.

 

  1. Elicit the counsel of general local expertise as well as constitutional and legal expertise among Bahrainis (and foreigners as could be agreed upon) in order to set the building blocks for a civil, democratic and modern state. Such a process would need to benefit from the latest of human knowledge and experience, and must be followed by the establishment of the right mechanisms to put this counsel into practice, within clear timelines, adjusting local laws, such as those of the electoral system and electoral constituencies, in a way that accelerates the political solution and puts the country on the right path towards real sustainable reform and development.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

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