International prosecutors group to meet over Bahraini membership

Mon, Apr 22, 2013, 06:00

Bahrain’s continuing membership of the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) will be discussed when the organisation’s executive committee meets in Paris later this week.

IAP president James Hamilton confirmed the association had received a complaint from an Irish lawyers’ human rights group calling for the Bahraini representative to be expelled.

Ceartas accused Bahrain’s attorney general Dr Ali bin Fadhel Al-Buainain, a member of the IAP’s 30-strong executive committee, of overseeing unlawful prosecutions and unfair trials in the wake of anti-government protests in 2011. Ceartas also said Dr Al-Buainain failed “to properly investigate or prosecute for cases involving torture”.

On the agenda
Mr Hamilton, a former director of public prosecutions in Ireland, said he would put the complaint on the agenda for the meeting, “but it’s short notice … and I can’t say whether people will be prepared to deal with it or not”.

The IAP is made up of 145 members, representing 96 jurisdictions; under its standards, members are expected to promote “fair, effective, impartial and efficient prosecution of criminal offences, and the promotion of high standards and principles in the administration of criminal justice”.

Fergal Mawe, co-director of Ceartas, whose report on Bahrain can be read at ceartaslaw.org , said if the standards “are to mean anything … then Mr Hamilton should act. Given the failure of the legal system in Bahrain to protect its own citizens from torture and other abuses, Dr Al-Buainain must be expelled from the executive committee of this international association.”

Mr Hamilton said as far as he was aware this was the first time the IAP had received such a complaint.

“The position is that we have members from a great number of countries … and quite a number of people would be from countries where prosecution services have in the past certainly done things which would be regarded as controversial,” he said. “So it’s possibly maybe surprising that we haven’t actually received a complaint like this before.”

Mr Hamilton added that the IAP was a “small organisation in the sense of we don’t have a large secretariat … we don’t have any procedure for carrying out inspections on people before they become members.”

Setting a precedent
Neither, he added, did the organisation have a protocol for dealing with members which appear to be in contravention of standards. The complaint is “obviously something we’re going to look very carefully at”, and the outcome “will certainly set a precedent for how we deal with a complaint”.

However, he warned, there may not be any immediate decision as “most people won’t have had very much notice of this. But we will certainly discuss it at that meeting and discuss how we’re going to proceed with dealing with it.”