Human Rights First Seeks Visa Ban for Bahrain’s Alleged Torturer Prince
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First has recommended that the U.S. Department of State impose visa sanctions against Prince Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa of Bahrain for his alleged direct involvement in torture, a gross violation of human rights under the Section 7031(c) sanctions program.
“Bahrain has done little to hold its officials to account for torture and other human rights violations, yet the U.S. government continues engaging in business as usual with the same individuals,” said Mike Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First. “The least the U.S. government can do is enforce Congress’s requirement that abusers not be allowed to visit this country, even if they come from governments that are military allies.”
There are multiple credible allegations from survivors that Nasser personally tortured them in 2011 during the Bahraini government’s brutal crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protests. Nasser has denied committing torture, but Bahrain’s institutions lack the independence to credibly investigate these allegations.
It is unclear whether the State Department has ever reviewed the allegations against Nasser and considered barring his entry under the law, known as Section 7031(c), which is a mandatory authority with no statute of limitations. Credible information of Nasser’s involvement in torture is sufficient to trigger an entry ban unless that sanction is waived to “serve a compelling national interest.”
There is no evidence to suggest that Nasser’s visits, ranging from attending high-level meetings to competing in a triathlon, serve a compelling national interest that would justify allowing his entry in the United States in the face of mutually corroborating torture allegations.
Under Section 7031(c), “[o]fficials of foreign governments and their immediate family members about whom the Secretary of State has credible information have been involved, directly or indirectly, in… a gross violation of human rights… shall be ineligible for entry into the United States.”
Nasser has visited the United States several times since the 2011 torture allegations, most recently in September 2023, when he joined his brother’s meetings with the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense. Nasser also attended Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s January 10 meeting with King Hamad in Bahrain.