Bahrain Government Denies Access to Congressman McGovern and Human Rights First
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today said that the Bahraini government’s refusal to allow Congressman James McGovern (D-MA) and Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley to enter the country demonstrates the regime’s unwillingness to address its ongoing human rights abuses. Rep. McGovern and Dooley applied for access to Bahrain in early June, seeking permission to travel to the country in August to meet with Bahraini government members, and members of civil society and the opposition.
“I was eager to meet with all sides of the tensions in Bahrain, to gather first-hand accounts from all perspectives,” said Congressman McGovern. “It seems, however, the Bahraini government was afraid that the reality on the ground will differ too much from the reality they try to paint to the American public here in the U.S.”
This is not the first instance of Bahraini government hostility toward U.S. government officials. Just last month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Tom Malinowski, was expelled from Bahrain after meeting with opposition figures.
Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley has been repeatedly denied access to Bahrain since March 2012 after he made several trips to the country to document the human rights violations that followed the popular pro-democracy uprising in early 2011. Dooley was given permission to visit Bahrain in March 2013, but the access was withdrawn at the last moment. Congressman McGovern, who was planning to travel to Bahrain with Dooley, has been a member of Congress since 1996 and is co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. He has consistently raised concerns about Bahrain’s human rights record.
“For all its rhetoric of reform it’s times like these when you see the real face of the Bahrain government,” said Dooley. “Shutting out international human rights observers, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, and now a member of the U.S. Congress makes you wonder what human rights abuses they are trying to hide.”
Many peaceful opposition leaders jailed in Bahrain during the 2011 protests remain in prison, and Bahrain continues to jail those peacefully expressing their views, including those who criticize the ruling monarchy on Twitter. Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to publicly press Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, to release political prisoners and include them in political talks.
“The hardliners in Bahrain’s ruling family are clearly not dependable U.S. allies,” noted Dooley. “The U.S. government needs to take a long hard review of its relationship with Bahrain’s government to find a new path to promote stability, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.”