Ghada Hameed Habib
Secretary-General for Ombudsman
The general philosophy behind the notion of initiating the Independent Ombudsman Office in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the commencement in its actual work in July, 2013 is the philosophy of caring for human-beings, respecting their rights and strengthening their freedoms. It is an authentic national philosophy stemming from a wise vision built on the basis of the constant work on the development of an institutional structure that contributes to the advancement of respecting human rights, ensuring accountability, access to justice, and fairness within the criminal justice system, specifically in the field of law enforcement organizations.
The establishment of the Independent Ombudsman Office came as a part of a legislative, executive, and administrative measures undertaken by the Kingdom of Bahrain within its comprehensive democratic and development project. It represented a remarkable qualitative leap that raised the respect of values and principles of human rights in public work, and in several times, it was occasionally reached to the ranks of international normative values and principles.
Therefore, the Independent Ombudsman Office intended since the early days to set the fundamentals and rules of its work, to benefit from the top international practices in the field of ombudsman offices worldwide. Prior to its inauguration, the Independent Ombudsman Office launched an organized and systematic program to learn directly from prominent international institutions that are similar in terms of specialization.
The governance of the Independent Ombudsman Office was not solely achieved as the first office of its kind specialized in the consideration of complaints and assistance requests regarding the Ministry of Interior’s employees, it was also achieved in terms of the speed of its completion since the decree of its establishment was issued in February, 2012 in a record time compared to several Ombudsman Offices worldwide. In addition, such governance was achieved through the content of the work mechanisms followed therein and its compatibility with all relevant national laws, as well as its compliance with international standards related to monitoring law enforcement bodies, and also related to monitoring reformation, rehabilitation, and pretrial detention centers, and so on.
It is also worth mentioning that the role of the Independent Ombudsman Office was a part of a sequence of legislative amendments that took place in May, 2013 that strengthened its ability to carry out its duties which contributed in a more functional legal authority, making it the first independent executive body to have the authority to visit reformation, rehabilitation, and pretrial detention centers. The first visit of its kind was made in September, 2013, only two months after its inauguration to the Men Reformation and Rehabilitation Center in Jau, and thereafter issued a detailed report on this visit. In the same month, the Independent Ombudsman Office also issued the first guide on the principles, standards, and indicators of visiting reform, rehabilitation, and pretrial detention centers which are in line with the rules of the United Nations and international standards in this field.
In conclusion, I assure you that the Independent Ombudsman Office in the Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the leading self-governing bodies that serve human rights issues. However, it does not solely carry out its main and original jurisdiction which is to examine complaints and assistance requests received, its role in visiting reform, rehabilitation, pretrial detention centers, it also contributes in cooperating and coordinating with relevant authorities to develop recommendations that promote respecting human rights.