The International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims is observed on the 24th of March every year. On this day, countries of the world pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in, the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all. As well, this day is observed to honor the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice.
This date was selected by the UN General Assembly on 21 December 2010, to commemorate the life and death of leading rights advocate, Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador. He was assassinated on 24 March 1980 for speaking the truth to power in El Salvador, demanding justice and peace for his fellow citizens.
Generally speaking, the right to truth is often invoked in the context of grave violations and breaches of humanitarian law, such as summary executions, enforced disappearance, torture, sexual violence, and children abduction. More implicitly, any person who has suffered atrocities has the unalienable right to know who is responsible; any family whose members have disappeared has the basic right to discover their fate and whereabouts; every society where these crimes have taken place have the right to learn their history without lies or denial.
In Bahrain, for example, many citizens are disappointed by the continued denial by the Bahraini authorities of their responsibility for crimes against human rights and disrespect of the dignity of victims. Since 2011, the number of violations increased following the popular movement in February 2011, although the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report issued on 23 November 2011, demonstrated the systematic crimes committed by members of the Bahraini security services and held them directly responsible. However, the authorities did not implement the most important recommendations.
Thus, on this occasion, The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) pledges to continue to support the victims and their families and try to realize their right to know the truth and protect those who seek to raise their voices. We recall the detainees facing death sentences, and all those detained experiencing abuse, torture and/or inhumane and degrading treatment, as well as human rights defenders behind bars, amongst them is the prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
Therefore, BCHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to:
- Adopt measures to unveil the complete truth about the events surrounding gross human rights violations in Bahrain;
- Establish institutions, mechanisms, and procedures that enable them to search and reveal the truth, such as the establishment of truth commissions;
- Provide redress for victims by establishing the necessary domestic tools to ensure justice;
- Investigate crimes of torture, killing, and sexual harassment, and hold those who committed and ordered these crimes accountable.