For Immediate Release: July 14, 2011
Washington, D.C.–Despite an ongoing national dialogue between the government and some parts of civil society, Human Rights First documents in a report released today how the Bahraini government continues to intimidate, torture, and detain human rights defenders, and shoot at civilians. The report cites the continuing government crackdown in Bahrain through eyewitness accounts and testimonies from human rights defenders, and calls on the U.S. government to insist on benchmarks for the dialogue.
The complete report and recommendations can be found here.
“Human rights defenders with whom we spoke are wary that the dialogue is anything more than elaborate play-acting for the international community’s benefit,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley who just completed a fact-finding mission to Bahrain. “Many are asking that the U.S. government rapidly assess its effectiveness, and publicly state whether the dialogue is real.”
The report also cites several human rights defenders’ concerns that the announced international investigation into the violence will have no actual influence on the Bahraini government’s attempt toward reconciliation. “Activists we spoke to are worried that the international community is ready to move on, but the situation on the ground is still dire for those calling for democratic reforms. There is still a real sense of fear in Bahrain,” added Dooley.
During its mission, Human Rights First also documented reports of injured detainees being tortured on their wounds, sexual abuse, and attacks at medical facilities, as well as a deepening sectarian divide in Bahrain that has the potential to upset any chance at reconciliation.
Based on this report and other recent findings, Human Rights First has updated its recommendations to the U.S. and Bahraini governments. They include, but are not limited to:
The U.S. government:
- Publicly identify necessary conditions or benchmarks for a successful national dialogue, and publicly comment, without delay, on when or whether the dialogue is not working. These should include:
- The release of all peaceful protestors from jail and drop charges pending against them.
- An end to the expulsion of students.
- Public release of the concluding documents for consideration by the King and the Parliament within a reasonable timeframe.
- Demand that the national dialogue and reform should explicitly address discrimination on the basis of religion and condemn sectarian violence.
- Continued U.S. engagement in Bahrain with human rights defenders.
- Investigations into whether Bahraini authorities have committed violations of religious freedom as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and take appropriate action under the act.
- Investigations to ensure that U.S. arms transfers are not facilitating repression and gross human rights violations in Bahrain by investigating which specific units of the Bahraini military and other security forces are implicated in gross violations of human rights and, if applicable, suspend all equipment, money, and training to such units.
The Bahraini government:
- Release all prisoners in Bahrain who are being held and drop charges against all those being prosecuted for exercising their rights to nonviolent freedom of expression.
- End arbitrary detentions and stop the torture and mistreatment of detainees, and implement safeguards to prevent torture, such as an end to incommunicado detention.
- End its persecution of human rights defenders and nonviolent critics, and to allow independent human rights organizations and defenders to work free from harassment.
- Take serious steps to end the systematic discrimination against the majority Shiite community, including the gerrymandering of parliamentary districts, the low representation of Shiites in the security services and other key government positions and implement nondiscriminatory polices related to the naturalization of non-citizens.