This week, the U.S. State Department (State) released its annual country reports on human rights practices, and its section on Bahrain confirms the extent of the human rights crisis that has been occurring in the country. The opening few paragraphs read like a manual for repressive regimes on how to successfully undermine the most basic and internationally recognized human rights:
“The most serious human rights problems included citizens’ inability to change their government peacefully; arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, in some cases leading to their torture in detention; and lack of due process in trials of political and human rights activists, medical personnel, teachers, and students, with some trials resulting in harsh sentences.
Other significant human rights problems included arbitrary deprivation of life; lack of consistent accountability for security officers accused of committing human rights violations; arrest of individuals on charges relating to freedom of expression; reported violations of privacy; and restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and some religious practices.”
Though the United States publicly touts the Government of Bahrain’s efforts toward reform since mass protests gripped the country in 2011, State’s own report confirms that a majority of the most significant human rights abuses documented in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry continue with impunity to this day. The report rightly mentions the imprisonment of human rights defenders, such as Nabeel Rajab, who have been imprisoned solely as a result of their criticisms of the government, but State has done little to secure his release or others like him.
Politico Magazine recently listed Bahrain as America’s 8th “most awkward” ally in a laundry list of oppressive regimes, stating that “President Obama has spoken out against the abuses – but done little else, while continuing to sell arms to the wealthy Gulf country, some of which were used against demonstrators.” With such a wealth of information on the human rights crisis occurring in Bahrain, the State Department has no excuse for failing to place meaningful pressure on its ally to move toward reform. The U.S. can and must move from prioritizing its security and economic interests to prioritizing its values in Bahrain.
Congress should also move forward with a vote to confirm Tom Malinowski, who has been nominated to be Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) at State. Malinowski has a strong record of pressing the Bahraini government to uphold its international human rights commitments, and filling this position will be critical to DRLs engagement with the government on these issues.
Diala Jadallah is the Director of Advocacy at ADHRB
الرجاء الضغط هنا لقراءة هذه الرسالة باللغة العربي