A bi-partisan group of United States senators has sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing concern over the government of Bahrain’s terrible human rights record and asking for details about how the Biden Administration plans to press for an end to the violent repression of the Bahraini people by their own government.
The Senators signing the letter are Ron Wyden, Marco Rubio, Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Patrick Leahy, Jeff Merkley, and Bernie Sanders.
“Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain profoundly thanks the Senators for their commitment to holding the Government of Bahrain accountable for its systemic violation of human rights. The Government of Bahrain is an egregious, persistent, and blatant violator of the rights of its citizens on nearly every level,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. “We need to know what the Biden-Harris Administration is doing to live up to its commitment to put human rights at the center of US Foreign policy. Bahrain is a test case for the Administration’s new policies and the world is watching.”
The Senators cite a long list of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Government of Bahrain including, “arbitrary detention, torture, cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners, restrictions on freedom of the press, interference with peaceful assembly, and restrictions on political participation and religious practice.”
Political opposition in Bahrain has been banned, independent media shut down, and several thousand political prisoners languish in Bahraini jails, including opposition leaders Hasan Mushaima and Naji Fateel.
The letter makes clear that the egregious behavior of the Government of Bahrain may have very real consequences for US global security. The senators express concern “about the impact this violent repression has on Bahrain’s citizens and on the country’s longer-term stability” and that “the government of Bahrain’s violent, systemic repression will breed resentment and instability, and could ultimately threaten the Navy’s Fifth Fleet and the several thousand Americans living and working on U.S. facilities in Bahrain.”
The letter calls on the State Department to “speak hard truths” to the Government of Bahrain by putting human rights at the center of US foreign policy.
This framework was endorsed by President Biden as recently as September 21, 2021, in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly. He said “we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy… of renewing and defending democracy. . . The future will belong to those who give their people the ability to breathe free, not those who seek to suffocate their people with an iron hand.”
The letter asks the State Department to report on its efforts to improve human rights in Bahrain. and raises unavoidable issues like 1) the release of political prisoners, including opposition leaders Hasan Mushaima and Naji Fateel, 2) the potential of linking sales of defense articles and services to Bahrain to improvement in human rights, and 3) the possibility of exercising Global Magnitsky Act authority or other sanctions authorities against members of the government of Bahrain responsible for serious human rights violations.
“If the government of Bahrain is serious about ending its reign of terror over its citizens it will immediately release all political prisoners, begin a dialogue with the political opposition, and bring to justice those who have committed human rights abuses, including those in the Bahraini security forces,” said Abdulla. “Unless we see substantial and rapid progress in those three areas, we will know it is business as usual in Bahrain and that US diplomacy with Bahrain is not working.”