State Department Commemorates 5th Anniversary by Calling for More Reforms

On 17 February, the US Department of State (DoS) issued a statement commemorating the fifth anniversary of Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising in 2011 when “Bahrainis from all backgrounds called for political reforms that would bring greater respect for their universal rights and fundamental freedoms.” In particular, the DoS acknowledges that though Bahrain has created institutions to “improve oversight of security institutions…more work remains to be done.” The statement also highlights ongoing US concerns regarding “limitations on peaceful assembly, political activism, and the criminalization of freedom of expression” since the uprising. DoS also calls on the Bahraini government to work with the opposition to move forward with reforms, including “the release of opposition figures like Ibrahim Sharif and Sheikh Ali Salman.”

Five years after the uprising began, the DoS statement undermines the Bahraini government’s rhetoric that it has “moved beyond 2011”, claiming that it has moved forward with the implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and created a “culture of accountability” by establishing the aforementioned human rights accountability institutions. ADHRB’s research has shown that these institutions, including Special Investigation Unit (SIU), the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman, and the Bahrain National Institute for Human Rights, are structurally flawed to impede their impartiality and ability to implement real accountability measures for ongoing human rights violations, such as torture and enforced disappearances in Bahrain. Further, only two of the 26 BICI recommendations have been fully implemented in the five years since the Commission released its report.

ADHRB echoes the DoS call for the government to take tangible action on “peaceful change” in order to “marginalize those who support violence.” ADHRB commends the DoS for recognizing the deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain five years after the uprising.

We reiterate our call on the Government of Bahrain to release the more than 3,500 political prisoners immediately in order to begin a real dialogue with Bahraini civil society and the political opposition, and move toward true national reconciliation and reform.

Click here to read the US Department of State’s full statement.

Kate Kizer is the U.S. Advocacy Officer at ADHRB.