NEW REPORT: Human Rights Defenders Criticize U.S. Government’s Response to Bahraini Crackdown

Washington, D.C. — Following a fact-finding mission to Bahrain earlier this week, Human Rights First is calling on President Obama to stand up for human rights defenders in Bahrain. In his Middle East speech on Thursday, President Obama can send a clear signal that the United States supports human rights and democracy in the Middle East by supporting vulnerable Bahraini activists. In its report released today, Human Rights First publishes first-hand testimonies of the Bahraini government’s crackdown from the perspectives of human rights defenders currently in Bahrain, and provides recommendations for the U.S. and Bahraini governments to end human rights abuses.

While in Bahrain, HRF’s Brian Dooley interviewed several human rights defenders who described widespread torture and illegal detention. Bahraini human rights defenders told Dooley that they are increasingly disappointed in the U.S. government’s tepid response. Dooley said, “They see a double standard in U.S. rhetoric and action in relation to Bahrain compared with Syria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia.” Perceived weakness in support of human rights in a close U.S. ally like Bahrain weakens U.S. support for peaceful democratic change throughout the region.

HRF calls for immediate U.S. government action in support of human rights and human rights defenders in Bahrain. Recommendations include:

  • President Obama, in Thursday’s speech on U.S. policy in the Middle East, should make specific reference to human rights violations in Bahrain and make clear the U.S. government’s support for the fundamental human rights of the Bahraini people. He should make specific reference to human rights violations and mention of at least one case by name – for example, that of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.
  • In the coming days, senior U.S. government officials should:
    • Publicly call for the release of all prisoners in Bahrain who are being held for exercising their rights to non-violent freedom of expression and assembly;
    • Condemn unfair trials, torture and death sentences in Bahrain;
    • Call for an independent inquiry by Bahraini authorities into widespread allegations of human rights violations, and for all those responsible for ordering or committing abuses to be held accountable;
    • Engage more closely and publicly display support for the human rights defenders and their families in Bahrain.
  • In addition, Human Rights First reiterates its call for the U.S. government to support the convening of a special session on Bahrain in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva;

HRF also calls for urgent Bahraini government action to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of all its people. Recommendations include:

  • The Bahraini government should immediately end its persecution of human rights defenders and non-violent critics:
    • Release all those detained for exercising their rights to peaceful expression and assembly;
    • Put an end to arbitrary detentions and disappearances;
    • Stop the torture and mistreatment of detainees, and implement safeguards to prevent torture, such as an end to incommunicado detention;
    • Stop labeling its critics as Iranian agents without providing any evidence that non-violent human rights activists have any other agenda than to promote and protect the universal human rights of all Bahrainis.

Additionally, the Bahraini government should:

  • End the systematic discrimination against the majority Shiite community; and
  • Protect Shiite places of worship and religious buildings from attack or destruction and respect the religious freedom of all Bahrainis.

The complete report and recommendations can be found here.


Published on May 17, 2011


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