UN official deplores curtailment of trade union activity in Bahrain

16 March 2011

The head of the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO), Juan Somavia, today expressed grave concern over the declaration of a state of emergency in Bahrain, saying the move is a serious setback to civil liberties, including the right to legitimate trade union activity.

Mr. Somavia, the ILO Director-General, said in a statement that the situation in Bahrain calls for a continuation of the dialogue that had started between the Government and “the key actors of society.”

On Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted with concern that troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council, had reportedly entered Bahrain, where public protests against the king have led to growing violence.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has reportedly declared a three-month state of emergency across Bahrain.

Mr. Somavia said he shared the concern expressed by the Secretary-General and other world leaders about the violence and the excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, including many trade unionists.

He emphasized that the ILO’s long-standing activities with the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council have underscored the central role of social dialogue for decent work.

“Today, forward-looking national dialogue is needed more than ever in Bahrain. It is clear that the resort to security measures together with external intervention risks further complications in the already protracted crisis,” added Mr. Somavia.

The ILO has supported legislation to enable the General Federation of Bahraini Trade Unions to play a full and responsible role in social dialogue and negotiations, he said.

Mr. Somavia stressed that trade unions in Bahrain have continued to call for reforms in a peaceful and constructive way, adding that their right to act and speak must be respected and that they must be allowed to be partners in the search for solutions that bring the country together through genuine dialogue.


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