13 May 2015 – On the eve of the US-GCC Summit at Camp David, 45 Members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama emphasizing the need for the United States to leverage its strong relationship with the Kingdoms of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to encourage sweeping reforms on their human rights policies. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) welcomes this statement, and joins the Members of Congress in asking the President to counsel Bahrain and Saudi Arabia towards serious and substantial reform.
Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are both well known for their human rights abuses. In 2011, the Government of Bahrain attacked nationwide peaceful protests seeking greater popular representation. Since then, the government has targeted human rights defenders and political activists in an effort to silence dissent, as government security forces engage in systemic acts of torture in the nation’s prisons. Across the causeway, Saudi Arabia wages a similar campaign of intolerance, executing activists for crimes of expression and lashing others for crimes of assembly. Perhaps most notably, the country’s government enforces strict gender inequalities, as women are prevented from acts as simple as driving in a system that demands their total obedience.
“This letter shows that the United States is growing increasingly concerned with the human rights abuses of its allies,” said Husain Abdulla, the Executive Director of ADHRB. “As a country built on the fundamental principles of human rights, it’s encouraging to see these Members of the US Congress take such a strong stance ahead of such an important meeting.”
In the letter to the President, the Members of Congress raised these concerns, asking that President Obama use the upcoming GCC Summit at Camp David to pressure the Governments of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to end their repressive policies by reforming laws that discriminate against women, ending undue restrictions on civil society, and immediately releasing all political prisoners. The letter additionally seeks for the President to encourage a comprehensive reform of the countries’ legal systems, towards the end of reforming any and all laws that would violate the civil and political rights of their citizens and residents.
“If Bahrain and Saudi Arabia truly regard the US as an important ally, they will respond to the concerns raised in this letter positively and with a good faith commitment to actual reform,” said Abdulla. “The way forward is clear; now is the time to act.”
For an Arabic version of this statement, click here.