8 July 2014 – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemn the Government of Bahrain’s decision to deem unwelcome in the country Tom Malinowski, the U.S. Department of State’s Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
In a statement issued by the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government deemed Assistant Secretary Malinowski “unwelcome”, claiming that the high level diplomat interfered in internal affairs. “These activities have included holding meetings with one party, leaving out others who represent different parts of society, which is indicative of an approach which discriminates amongst the people of this one nation,” the statement continued.
“I express solidarity with Mr. Malinowski and am ashamed of the way my government has treated a high level official from the United States government,” said BCHR President Nabeel Rajab. “It further saddens me to know that I cannot change the situation, as the people of Bahrain have no real means through which their opinion can be heard by the government.”
The statement also claims that Assistant Secretary Malinowski’s actions are “in defiance of conventional diplomatic norms” and makes reference to 22 recommendations adopted in an extraordinary session of Bahrain’s national assembly in July 2013. These extremely restrictive laws have previously been used to target human rights activists, opposition figures, and various forms of peaceful dissent, but this is the first instance of it being implemented against a public official from a foreign country.
“As one of the United States’ key allies, we are gravely concerned over the effective deportation of Assistant Secretary Malinowski by the Bahrain government,” said ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “The accusations leveled against Assistant Secretary Malinowski, which appear to be a result of meeting with various opposition figures and human rights activists, undermine any claims by the Bahraini government that they are serious about reconciliation in the country and creating the space necessary for reform to occur.”
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” by the Bahrain government’s decision to demand the immediate departure of Assistant Secretary Malinowski. “Contrary to our longstanding bilateral relationship and in violation of international diplomatic protocol, the government insisted – without advanced warning and after his visit had already commenced – to have a Foreign Ministry representative present at all of Assistant Secretary Malinowski’s private meetings,” Psaki stated. “These actions are not consistent with the strong partnership between the United States and Bahrain.”
“We are pleased by the United States government’s response to the erroneous claims made by the Government of Bahrain regarding Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski’s intentions during his visit to Bahrain,” Abdulla said. “A fundamental part of international diplomacy is engaging with all aspects of a country’s society, including non-state actors. We echo Assistant Secretary Malinowski’s sentiment that the Bahrain government’s actions shed light on their true intentions to undermine efforts towards reconciliation and dialogue.”
Since February 2011, the Government of Bahrain has failed to act on its commitment to implement critical reforms, resulting in a deteriorating situation marked by ongoing protests, increased violence, and continued claims of ill-treatment and torture by those in detention. With thousands of political prisoners and human rights defenders such as Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Abduljalil al-Singace in detention, it is clear that consistent diplomatic engagement from the Bahraini government’s key allies on the need for political and human rights reforms is more urgent than ever.