The United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official websites] on Tuesday announced [press release] that Bahrain [BBC backgrounder] has agreed to permit a UN commission to investigate human rights violations related to pro-democratic reform protests in the country. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] and Bahrain's health minister Fatima bint Mohammed Al Balooshi met on Friday to discuss the visit, but no date has been established. Pillay called for independent, transparent investigations into human rights violations that allegedly took place during the demonstrations. While attending a meeting with Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] and Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohamed Al Khalifa, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon [official website] also urged [press release] the maintenance of international human rights standards.
Bahrain, along with several other Middle Eastern and North African nations, has faced criticism from international human rights organizations for its handling of pro-reform protests in recent months. In May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said the government of Bahrain should suspend prosecution of civilians in military courts and set up an impartial commission to investigate torture allegations [press release; JURIST report]. Also in May, Pillay urged the government of Bahrain to release detained activists [JURIST report] and exercise restraint against protesters. She expressed concern over the prosecution of medical professionals and the death sentences [JURIST report] handed to four activists last month. In April, human rights organizations including HRW and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) [advocacy website] criticized Bahrain [JURIST report] for human rights abuses related to anti-government protests. Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] announced [JURIST report] that the three-month state of emergency [decree text, in Arabic] put in place [JURIST report] in mid-March in response to growing unrest, would be lifted two weeks early. In March, the OHCHR expressed concern [UN News Centre report; JURIST report] over violence against protesters in Bahrain.