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June 29, 2012

Bahrain Ambassador Declines Dooley's Invitation for a Public Debate on Reforms

Photo of Bahrain Ambassador to the United States Houda Nonoo. (Photo from POMED)

Earlier this week, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooleysent a letter to Houda Nonoo, Bahrain’s ambassador to the United States, asking her for a public discussion about human rights reforms in Bahrain. Ambassador Nonoo backed out of the invitation via her blog while ironically stressing the importance of dialogue with human rights organizations. She proposed a private meeting instead.  She writes:

Throughout my time in Washington, I have always been happy to discuss the situation in Bahrain with concerned members of the human rights community. We all benefit from the frank exchange of views done in the spirit of seeking truth and fostering understanding. It has been my experience that private discussions offer the best venue for facilitating such discussions.

We need a serious effort to understand the situation in Bahrain and work constructively to resolve it. Human rights groups have an important role to play in this.

Dooley planned on travelling to Bahrain this week, but he was denied entry—his second denial over the course of six months. He wanted to speak with government officials about the 20 medics recently prosecuted for treating wounded protesters and for telling the truth about government abuses. Since the publication of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report in November 2011, it has been difficult for human rights organizations and other international observers to operate in Bahrain.

Talk is cheap. If the Bahrain government truly wants to have a “serious effort” to constructively resolve the situation in Bahrain, then it should provide human rights groups access to the country. Government representatives, including Ambassador Nonoo, should also engage in a public dialogue with human rights groups. Both actions would signal that the country is willing to acknowledge human rights abuses identified in the BICI report and that it is committed to reforms.

Do you think that the Ambassador should join a public debate?