Bahraini Opposition Leader Sentenced to One Year in Jail
Washington, D.C. – Following news that Bahraini opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif has been sentenced to one year in jail, Human Rights First today urged the U.S. government to renew its call for the release of Sharif and other political prisoners.
“Today’s news that political opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif has been sentenced to a year in jail is another severe setback to prospects for reconciliation and reform in Bahrain,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The Bahrain regime is clearly rejecting moderate inclusive politics and remains determined to stifle all peaceful opposition. This verdict should be very alarming for the U.S. government, which just last week called for Sharif’s release from jail. We urge the State Department to keep publicly pushing for the release of Sharif and Bahrain’s other peaceful political leaders who remain in jail, not least because Bahrain’s actions are fueling violent extremism that the United States has pledged to prevent.”
Sharif is the leader of Bahrain’s peaceful secular leftist Waad political group. Two weeks after the Obama Administration announced it was lifting its ban on arms sales to the Bahraini military, Ibrahim Sharif was arrested for “promoting political change through forceful means and threats and inciting hatred against the regime” after giving a speech calling for reform. Sharif’s arrest occurred only weeks after he was released from prison in June, after serving nearly all of a five-year sentence imposed for peacefully calling for reform in 2011.
February 14 marked the fifth anniversary of the brutal government crackdown on mass protests calling for democratic reform in Bahrain. Human Rights First released a new blueprint, “How to Reverse Five Years of Failure on Bahrain,” that examines conditions in Bahrain, the strengths and shortcomings of the U.S. response, and potential opportunities for the U.S. government to support civil society and strengthen respect for human rights. The blueprint outlines key missteps in U.S. policy in Bahrain since the 2011 uprising, which include failing to back up rhetoric in support of human rights and civil society with action, and decisions to downplay these priorities in favor of short-term military objectives.
Human Rights First’s interviews with Bahraini activists and civil society leaders revealed an enduring human rights crisis in the country, marked by denial of basic rights including freedom of association, assembly, and expression, arbitrary arrests and torture of human rights activists and opposition leaders, and a failure to hold senior officials accountable for the torture and killings that occurred during the 2011 crackdown.