One Year After Bassiouni, U.S. Should Chart New Course in Bahrain
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged the U.S. government to radically reassess its approach to dealing with the Kingdom’s response to ongoing calls for reform in Bahrain. This week marks one year since the release of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s (BICI) findings and recommendations. Bahrain’s promised reforms following the report’s release have been inadequate and its human rights violations continue. Just this morning, 23 more medics were convicted by the Bahrain courts and sentenced to three months in prison for taking part in illegal gatherings last year. Five medics were acquitted. “A year ago, I was in the King of Bahrain’s palace when he promised his government would implement the human rights reforms outlined in the BICI report. He told us officials responsible for his government’s violent crackdown would be replaced and held accountable. It hasn’t happened,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The Bahrain regime points to reforms on paper, but the crisis needs a fundamental change in approach, including from the U.S. government.” Dooley notes that if the U.S. government continues to support the King while giving only muted encouragement to human rights defenders and peaceful protestors, it risks ending up with a violent conflict. The United States gave the Bahraini government a chance to introduce real reform, a chance it failed to take. “The U.S. government needs to acknowledge that it needs a new strategy. It needs to speak out publicly and call for the release of political prisoners, introduce visa bans on those it believes responsible for violations, and appoint a senior representative to advocate for U.S. interests in Bahrain,” said Dooley. Friday’s anniversary of the BICI report is also International Day Against Impunity. To date, no senior Bahraini government official has been held accountable for the violations last year.