On 16 December 2020, 18 human rights groups including Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and Freedom House have written to the president elect of the United States, Joseph Biden, congratulating him on his election and urging him to “ensure the return of democracy and human rights as the center of American foreign policy” amidst the deteriorating political situation in Bahrain.
Read the letter HERE
The letter presents the systemic attack on human rights defenders which has only worsened since Bahrain outlawed all political opposition parties in 2017. It highlights the cases of unjustly imprisoned opposition leaders and HRDs who serve lengthy sentences in overcrowded and unsanitary prisons, suffer torture and ill-treatment, and are “punitively denied adequate medical care”. Signatories highlighted the heightened vulnerability of “aging political leaders who suffer underlying health conditions”, such as the leader of the political opposition Mr. Hasan Mushaima, amidst the outbreak of Coronavirus.
Signatories also document the “crackdown on civic and press freedoms” where repressive cybercrime legislation is used to target civil society figures. Between June 2018 and May 2019, at least 21 individuals were arrested, detained, or prosecuted for online activity, which even includes following accounts “deemed malicious by the government”. There have been more instances of arbitrary attention since the start of the pandemic, whereby the government outlawed criticism of its policy. Even in prison, political prisoners face harassment for speaking up against the government’s insufficient measures with regards to the pandemic in prison, such as journalist Mahmoud Al-Jaziri who was placed in solitary confinement.
The letter brings attention to the increased use of the death penalty in Bahrain, where 27 individuals are currently on death row, and 25 of them are “at imminent risk of execution”. Nearly half were convicted based on coerced confessions produced under torture, with the most recent cases being Mohamed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa.
Signatories concluded with raising policy recommendations which focus on releasing political opposition figures who had been imprisoned for peacefully exercising their “freedom of expression, assembly, and association”, ensuring just compensation for victims of government abuse, overturning the ban on opposition groups, “restoring human rights conditions on any arms sales or military support to Bahrain”, expressing USA’s willingness to relocate the Fifth fleet if Bahrain persists in its violation of human rights, and imposing MaGnitsky Act sanctions against Bahraini officials who committed human-rights-related crimes.
Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB): “This letter sends a clear message to the upcoming Biden Administration that serious change is needed in US foreign policy toward Bahrain where establishing democracy, rule of law, and end of systematic human rights violations need to be on top of the agenda when it comes to US-Bahrain relations. Business as usual with Bahrain is no longer acceptable by these international rights groups.”