For Immediate Release: February 6, 2012
Washington, DC – Escalating attacks on civilians, fresh reports of torture in custody, and a decision by the Bahraini government to block independent human rights observers from entering the kingdom mark a “gathering storm” of renewed unrest ahead of protests on the first anniversary of the Bahrain uprising on Feb. 14.
In a new Human Rights First report issued today, the organization urged the United States to take immediate steps to publicly call for an end to ongoing violence in Bahrain and it renewed its call for the Bahraini government to cease its violent attacks on citizens.
“February 14 is a highly significant date, with large rallies expected to be mounted by the opposition in the days leading up to it. Shut out of the airwaves and most print media in Bahrain, those calling for reform have few options to make their dissent known to the regime other than to take part in marches and rallies,” noted Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, author of today’s report, Bahrain: The Gathering Storm. “The regime’s security forces’ preferred method of policing marches appears to be attack them, and so significant clashes are very possible.”
Today’s Bahrain report is the fourth by Dooley, who has traveled to Bahrain several times in the last year, but was recently denied entry ahead of this year’s Feb. 14 anniversary. Bahrain: The Gathering Storm provides an analysis of today’s situation in Bahrain, including first person accounts of the government’s efforts to silent dissent. Among the evidence of ongoing abuse documented by Dooley is a copy of government orders for medical workers to report all injuries to authorities or face prosecution, and first-person accounts from members of the Bahraini police force who were arrested and abused because they refused to participate in the Kingdom’s brutal crackdown.
The report also documents efforts in Congress to block military transfers to Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
“In the months since the Bassiouni Commission released its findings and recommendations, Bahrain’s leaders have responded with little but lip service,” Dooley notes, “The abuses are intensifying. The sham trials and prosecutions drag on, and the government has blocked observers from entering the Kingdom to report on what’s happening there. It’s time for the U.S. government and other nations to make clear that such abuses and secrecy will not be tolerated.”
To address these concerns, Human Rights First is calling on the U.S. government to make clear that the future of U.S.-Bahrain relations hinges on how Bahrain responds to calls for reform, to publicly condemn abuses by the Bahrain government and call for accountability, and to announce that it will closely monitor the upcoming anniversary events in Bahrain to ensure that its security forces adhere to international standards and law in protecting peaceful protesters.
Human Rights First calls on the Bahrain government to unconditionally release those condemned in military courts, and to end torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detention. In addition, it urges Bahrain’s leadership to permit the entry of independent observers and journalists, to condemn those who participated in human rights abuses, drop charges against those who are facing prosecution in politically-motivated cases, and to implement the full set of recommendations issue by the Bahrain government’s own independent commission.
“The gathering storm that has formed ahead of next week’s anniversary gives the United States little choice but to publicly condemn and respond to the Bahrain government’s failure to adhere to basic human rights standards,” Dooley concluded. “The Bahraini people need to see that the United States supports their calls for universal human rights.”