Human Rights First’s Dooley Testifies on Bahrain before Congressional Committee
Washington, D.C.—In testimony today before the U.S. Congress’s Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley will urge U.S. policymakers to take action to press for human rights reforms in Bahrain. He will also urge members of Congress to support a bipartisan bill that would ban the sale of small arms and ammunition to Bahrain until the government demonstrates human rights progress on recommendations laid out in a 2011 report.
“Through the smallest country in the Middle East, Bahrain exemplifies several of the major challenges for U.S. policy in the region,” Dooley noted in his prepared statement. “2016 promises to be a definitive year as a series of issues converge to threaten Bahrain… The remaining months will be important as President Obama shapes his legacy in the Middle East.”
Human Rights First urges the U.S. government to hold its ally Bahrain accountable for its human rights abuses. Dooley notes that while token gestures have been made by the Bahraini kingdom, fundamental problems remain. The unelected ruling family continues to control the government, and no senior official has been held accountable for torture or killings since 2011. Peaceful political leaders and human rights activists remain in jail on politically-motivated charges and without fair trials, and members of civil society are harassed and intimidated across a number of fronts.
Over the weekend The New York Times featured an opinion piece written by leading Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab from jail detailing his ordeal and the worsening human rights conditions in Bahrain. The country’s response was swift; shortly after the letter was published Bahraini authorities charged Rajab with publishing “false news and statements and malicious rumors that undermine the prestige of the kingdom.”
In 2011 President Obama publicly urged the Bahraini government to enter a dialogue with Al Wefaq, the leading opposition group which was suspended in June of this year. The president should reiterate that call now, and call on the suspension on the group to be lifted. Human Rights First also urges members of Congress to support legislation that would limit the U.S. government’s complicity with the Bahraini regime. Bipartisan bills in the House and Senate, which would impose a ban on small arms sales to Bahrain’s security services until all 26 of the reforms promised in the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report have been implemented, are picking up support.
“The U.S. government should live up to the rhetoric and adopt a coherent multiagency approach to Bahrain, one which is founded on securing stability through rights and inclusion,” noted Dooley.