Manama-March2(BNA)In response to Amnesty's cancellation of its visit to Bahrain today, the government of Bahrain wishes to provide the following clarification to representatives of international non-governmental organisations wishing to come to Bahrain for the purposes of their work.

As in other countries, Bahrain has a visa regime to govern the entry of all visitors to the Kingdom. The government is currently considering revisions to these regulations, and those applicable to representatives of international NGOs currently prescribe leave to enter Bahrain for five working days, between Sunday and Thursday inclusive.

Amnesty's request to visit was for one week, which included a weekend. Bahrain's Minister of Human Rights HE Dr Fatima Al Balooshi met Amnesty's representatives, at her request, to explore how her Ministry could assist Amnesty and also to clarify Bahrain's immigration regulations, which are not designed to be restrictions.

The Minister personally assured Amnesty that:

Its representatives could come to Bahrain even if their arrival and departure times crossed into the weekend by some hours, so that they may have the benefit of five full working days in Bahrain;
Her Ministry stood ready to assist Amnesty in arranging meetings, in order to try to ensure that it could finish its work;
In any event, Amnesty could obtain visas for a repeat visit for a further five working days if it failed to achieve in five days what it had originally sought to achieve in six or seven.

Especially given these personal assurances, the government is disappointed that Amnesty has chosen to put its objections to Bahrain's visa regulations before its work to promote and protect human rights. The government also regrets Amnesty's attempt, in its statement, to link this immigration issue with the recent postponement, by a few months, of the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. The matters are unrelated. Bahrain confirms that the visa regulations do not apply to United Nations agencies and specialised bodies. Bahrain is also pleased to reiterate its commitment to human rights and co-operation with all bodies engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights, which remain welcome to visit Bahrain.