For Immediate Release: March 16, 2011
Washington, DC — Human Rights First condemns the violent military crackdown against pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain that has already resulted in several deaths and mounting numbers of injured. In the early hours of this morning, Bahraini army and police forces entered Pearl Square with tanks and other military vehicles and cleared out demonstrators using teargas, shotguns and other weapons. Military raids are also being carried out on other neighborhoods of Manama and Shiite majority villages.
“The militarization of the conflict in Bahrain will lead to further violence and violations of basic rights and freedoms. It will not address the underlying causes of the unrest – institutionalized sectarian discrimination, the absence of representative government and the lack of legal protections for basic freedoms of assembly, and association, ” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks.
“Suppression of dissent in Bahrain with the backing of the Gulf Cooperation Council runs the risk of extending unrest to other countries in the Gulf region with sectarian tensions, including Yemen and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.,” added Hicks.
Human Rights First today stated that U.S. government officials should condemn the use of violence against unarmed protesters and urge the Bahraini government to initiate wide-ranging negotiations to implement necessary political reforms. In light of disturbing reports that security forces are blocking medical treatment for the injured, Human Rights First stated that interference in the provision of necessary medical treatment should stop immediately. In addition, the U.S. needs to intensify its outreach to the government of Saudi Arabia to make clear its objection to the violent suppression of dissent in Bahrain or anywhere in the Gulf region.
Hicks concluded, “Inflaming sectarian tensions in Bahrain will not ensure stability in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”