Senate Bill Calls for Unconditional Release of Bahraini Political Prisoners, Report on U.S. State Department’s Efforts to Secure their Release

A bill released by the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday addresses head-on the ongoing violations of human rights by the Government of Bahrain.

“Chairman Christopher Coons and the Senate Appropriations Committee have shined a bright light on the brutality and inhumanity of the Government of Bahrain against its own people,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain.

The Report accompanying the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Chairman’s Mark of the Fiscal Year 2022 State, Foreign  Operations bill highlights the terrible human rights situation in Bahrain:

The Committee remains concerned with reports of the widespread use of arbitrary detention, torture, violations of due process, and unfair trials in Bahrain, and notes that the suppression of peaceful dissent and free expression may negatively impact stability in that country. Not later than 60 days after enactment of the act, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations, which may be in classified form if necessary, detailing efforts made on behalf of political prisoners in Bahrain and the Government of Bahrain’s response.

Detainees.— . . . The Committee also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of individuals imprisoned for peaceful expression, association, and assembly, including members of opposition parties, civil society activists, and independent journalists, in . . . Bahrain . . . ,  and other countries where fundamental rights are denied. 

The Committee requires the US State Department to report to Congress on the efforts it is making “on behalf of political prisoners” and the response of the Government of Bahrain to these efforts.

The legislation also expresses concern that the Government of Bahrain’s ongoing and egregious violations of human rights could be the cause of instability in Bahrain, the location of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and thousands of US service personnel and civilians.

The bill goes on to call for the unconditional release of “individuals imprisoned for peaceful expression, association, and assembly, including members of opposition parties, civil society activists, and independent journalists” in Bahrain and elsewhere.   Thousands of political prisoners are being held in Bahrain.

The Government of Bahrain has recently passed an Alternative Sentencing law that may enable some political prisoners to be released, but under very strict conditions – they must admit guilt, despite having committed no actual crime, and must give up most of their civil rights including the right to speech, assembly, and to petition their government.

The Committee’s legislation makes clear that political prisoners, civil society activists, and independent journalists must be released by the Government of Bahrain without condition, so they have the ability to continue their work promoting democracy and human rights.

“To date, the U.S. State Department’s efforts have had little success in dissuading the Government of Bahrain from its ongoing reign of terror against its own people,” said Abdulla.  “In fact, on October 5, Steven Bondy, the United States’ Ambassador-nominee to Bahrain seemed to encourage the Government of Bahrain to continue on their current path when he said at his Senate confirmation hearing that the “trendlines” in Bahrain have been “exceedingly positive” in the past ten years.”

“His position is contradicted by the U.S. State Department’s own Country reports on Bahrain, major human rights organizations, and now the Senate Appropriations Committee” notes Abdulla.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain supports the Senate Appropriations Committee’s call for an end to human rights violations by the Government of Bahrain and calls for:

  • the immediate, unconditional release of all political prisoners in Bahrain, including opposition leader Hasan Mushaima, human rights defender Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, and academic Abduljalil Alsingace
  • the Government of Bahrain to begin a meaningful dialogue with the political opposition about strengthening democratic institutions in Bahrain ahead of the 2022 parliamentary elections
  • accountability for those responsible for violations of human rights in Bahrain including high ranking officials in the Ministry of the Interior and the security forces