Past Event: Hearing before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission: Implementation of the BICI Report

Statement of Husain Abdulla, Director
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain
Before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

Hearing: “Implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry Report”

Wednesday, August 1, 2012
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Rayburn 2237

I would like to thank the distinguished Chairmen of this Commission for holding this important hearing, and for the privilege of submitting this written statement on behalf of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). I would especially like to thank Chairman McGovern for his unparalleled leadership and advocacy in support of human rights and democracy in Bahrain.

ADHRB is an independent, non-profit organization that fosters awareness and support for the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain by advocating for the rights of Bahraini people to key actors within the US government and the general public. ADHRB cultivates relationships between Bahraini activists and US policymakers to give Bahrainis a voice on issues that directly affect them, including the continued crackdown on protests in Bahrain.

After protests broke out in February of last year, the Government of Bahrain responded with violence: civilian protestors were attacked, detained, tortured, and some were even killed, while activists were charged and tried before pseudo-military courts in trials that lacked fundamental due process protections. The international community expressed its unequivocal opposition to these attacks, prompting the Government of Bahrain to establish the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), a body tasked with investigating allegations of abuse.

Following months of investigation, the BICI issued its report and recommendations last November, concluding that government security forces had used excessive force against protestors, that they had committed torture and abuse against detainees, and that the military court trials were flawed and required review before civilian courts. Shortly thereafter, the King of Bahrain established a National Commission to monitor the implementation of the BICI recommendations. The National Commission announced the completion of its work in March of this year, declaring that implementation of the BICI report recommendations had been “comprehensive and far-reaching.”

Regrettably, implementation of the BICI report recommendations has been anything but comprehensive. Of significance, the Government of Bahrain has not fully established an independent mechanism for determining accountability for acts of torture and other human rights abuses committed by security forces (paragraph 1716 in the BICI report), nor has it established an independent body to investigate allegations of torture, ill-treatment, and excessive force (paragraph 1722(a)). Rather, the role of determining criminal accountability for torture and other abuses by security forces (1716) and investigating allegations of torture and other abuse (1722(a)) is being undertaken by the Public Prosecution Office—a unit itself accused of using evidence obtained through torture and ill-treatment—rather than by an independent body.

The government has failed to implement many other critical recommendations by the BICI as well. Moreover, the Government of Bahrain continues to attack protestors on the street, put pro-democracy advocates on trial for participating in protests, and allow human rights abusers to get away with impunity. For over a year, the Government of Bahrain has demonstrated a lack of sincerity in its commitment to human rights. The slow progress made in implementing the BICI recommendations is only the latest of many examples.

On behalf of ADHRB, and the many Bahrainis and Bahraini-Americans we work with, I strongly urge the United States Government, and this Congress, to support the tens of thousands of Bahrainis seeking reform. The United States Government is uniquely positioned to influence the trajectory of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain. Bahrain and the US share a mutual security interest in maintaining the presence of the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. Yet, there is strong reason to believe that if the pace of reform in Bahrain remains slow or becomes stagnated, Bahrain could become unstable, leading to greater insecurity in the region. The US Government must act now, before conditions deteriorate further, to support the aspirations of the Bahraini people for greater political freedom.

Accordingly, ADHRB recommends the following actions:

The current administration should:

  • Continue to monitor the Government of Bahrain’s compliance with the Leahy Amendment, which prohibits the provision of assistance or training to foreign security forces when credible evidence exists that an individual or unit within those forces has committed a gross violation of human rights; and
  • Determine whether US-trained military or police in Bahrain were involved in the repression of peaceful protestors. If so, reevaluate the International Military Education and Training (IMET)-funded program used by the US Department of Defense to train foreign police and military members, and consider either amending training practices or reducing IMET funding to Bahrain.

Members of the House of Representatives should:

  • Support H. J. Res. 80, a joint resolution that would condition the future sale of defense and service items to Bahrain on the Government of Bahrain’s full implementation of key BICI recommendations, including holding security forces who committed torture and other human rights abuses accountable for their actions.

Through these efforts, Congress and the Administration can demonstrate to Bahraini citizens the value of their aspirations for democracy and human rights.

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The transcript and video recording of the August 1, 2012 Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on Bahrain, titled “Implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry Report,” is now available online.

Click here to download transcript (.pdf)