State Department Releases Congressionally-Mandated Report on Bahrain’s Progress on Reform
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today said that the State Department’s congressionally-mandated report on Bahrain’s progress in implementing the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) recommendations is inadequate and poorly researched. Human Rights First calls on the State Department to properly investigate the human rights situation in Bahrain and release an updated report. The report, which was due in February of this year, was submitted to Congress this week.
“The State Department has shirked its job in providing Congress with a frank judgement of human rights reforms in Bahrain,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The report is largely descriptive, often repeating the Bahraini government’s claims without offering a verdict on whether specific recommendations have been met.”
The assessment is nearly five months late and comes during a savage assault by the Bahraini regime on civil society and political opposition. This has included the suspension of Bahrain’s main opposition group Al Wefaq, the arrest of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, and the Bahraini government preventing a group of human rights activists from attending the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
June 29 will mark the anniversary of the State Department’s 2015 decision to lift holds on security assistance to Bahrain, which were originally put in place following Bahrain’s crackdown on peaceful protestors calling for reform in 2011. Earlier this month the leader of the BICI, international human rights lawyer Professor Cherif Bassiouni, said that only 10 of the 26 recommendations for reform have been substantially implemented since 2011.
“Congress needs and deserves more than a tepid ‘on one hand … and on the other’ report from State, and should demand an immediate, comprehensive verdict on whether or not these 26 reforms have been implemented,” said Dooley. “Five years of weak policy towards Bahrain is coming home to roost this month with a shocking new wave of repression. Washington needs to change course, starting by reintroducing the arms ban lifted a year ago.”
Since the 2011 violent government crackdown on mass protests, the United States has failed to back up rhetoric supporting human rights and civil society with action, downplaying these priorities in favor of short-term military objectives. A recent Human Rights First blueprint outlines recommendations for the U.S. government to support civil society and strengthen respect for human rights.
Human Rights First continues to urge members of Congress to support the bipartisan bills in the House and Senate that would impose a ban on small arms sales to Bahrain’s security services until all 26 of the reforms promised in the 2011 BICI report have been implemented.