For Immediate Release: February 12, 2013
Washington, DC – Human Rights First urges the Bahrain government to mark Thursday’s two-year anniversary of the country’s prodemocracy uprising by allowing peaceful protests. In addition, Human Rights First calls on the Bahrain government to release political prisoners, end the use of excessive force by its police, and hold its officials accountable for torture and killings.
“This anniversary is an opportunity for the Bahrain government to help defuse the country’s human rights crisis,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The last thing Bahrain needs is another cycle of intimidation, violent protest and more arrests.”
On Sunday, Feb. 10, a government-sponsored dialogue began. It involved some opposition groups that participated amid fears that the dialogue would be unable to solve the country’s core human rights problems. Dooley notes that compounding the skepticism about the dialogue is the fact that many of the leading peaceful opposition figures remain in jail, sentenced to long prison terms after being convicted in unfair trials on politically-motivated charges.
“In May 2011 President Obama was right when he told the Bahrain government that ‘…you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.’ The U.S. government should reiterate that message now as the dialogue begins,” noted Dooley
Human Rights First notes that anti-government demonstrations are set to intensify in the coming days and that, in the past, such gatherings have sparked an increased government crackdown. “People have the right to demonstrate peacefully to mark the Feb. 14 anniversary. The government should protect that right,” said Dooley. “Unfortunately, it’s more likely that there will be clashes with the police and casualties are virtually inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Reforms promised for so long must be introduced immediately so people can see real change in the courts and on the streets, not just on paper.”