Freshfields and leading silks advise Bahrain Govt on human rights reform

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and two leading silks have won roles advising the Government of Bahrain on human rights reforms following the Arab Spring uprisings last year.

Sir Daniel Bethlehem QC from 20 Essex Street and Blackstone’s Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC are leading the advice to the Bahrain Government.

Freshfields international arbitration and public international law co-head Jan Paulsson – who is based in Bahrain – and City-based associate Tariq Baloch are also advising the state.

The appointments have been made following recommendations put forward by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) – an international committee set up last year in light of alleged torture of a number of Bahrain civilians during the uprising.

Bethlehem (pictured) and Jowell will be advising the Government with support from Freshfields on measures to improve accountability including the creation of a national body to investigate police officers responsible for torture, death or mistreatment of civilians.

Bethlehem was previously the primary legal adviser for the UK Foreign Office from 2006-11, before returning to private practice. Jowell was until recently the UK’s member of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, an advisory body of senior experts in constitutional law.

The Bahrain Government has pledged that the BICI’s recommendations will be implemented by the end of February this year with some reforms already in place. Key reforms include dropping charges against protestors related to freedom of speech; the removal of law enforcement and arrest powers from Bahrain’s National Security Agency; and the creation of a judicial panel to review convictions against protestors.

The news comes after Bahrain’s King Hamad Al-Khalifa visited the UK in December last year at which point Prime Minister David Cameron urged him to implement concrete reforms and offered UK support.

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