Bipartisan Bahrain Amendment to Defense Spending Bill Passed
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today praised the passage of a legislative amendment on Bahrain introduced by Senators and Marco Rubio (R- FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to the Defense Authorization bill. The amendment requires the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to report on implementation of reforms promised by the Government of Bahrain over a year ago, and to assess the impact of those failures on the U.S. security posture in the Gulf. To date, the U.S. government strategy to resolve tensions in Bahrain has been based on the Government of Bahrain’s promises to implement the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) recommendations. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet and is an important strategic ally in the Gulf. “The Bahrain regime must be held to account for the promises it made on human rights,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The political situation is increasingly volatile, the human rights crisis is worsening, and too many vital U.S. interests are being threatened to allow the current situation to continue. In the interests of a stable future for Bahrain and the region, the United States must immediately re-assess its approach to Bahrain.” “The Government of Bahrain has too often presented promises to reform as evidence of reform. The United States should formally establish what is real from what is hype. This amendment would require it to do just that,” said Dooley. In November 2011, the Government of Bahrain pledged to meet all 26 recommendations posed in the BICI report. The King of Bahrain had commissioned the report, which was headed by international human rights lawyer Cherif Bassiouni, to investigate human rights violations in the country in the early months of 2011. The report confirmed what Human Rights First and other international human rights organizations had documented for months before – that thousands of people had been arrested, many had been tortured and hundreds of civilians had been subjected to unfair trials in a military court. Despite accepting the report’s findings no senior official of the Bahrain government has yet to be held accountable for the violations. In recent weeks the situation in Bahrain has deteriorated, with an increasingly violent edge to some protests. A ban on all public gatherings has been introduced, 31 people have been stripped of their citizenship and civil society figures continue to be targeted in the media and courts. Three men were sentenced earlier this month for criticizing the king on Twitter.