For Immediate Release: June 10, 2013
Washington, D.C. –Twenty Members of Congress are urging Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa to reconsider his decision to postpone indefinitely the visit of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez, who has twice been denied access to the Kingdom since protests there began in February 2011. In a letter sent June 10, they called on him to “demonstrate your commitment to help put an end” to abusive practices, including torture.
“As you know, serious accusations have been made in recent years against members of the Bahraini security forces, who are accused of torturing detainees with impunity,” wrote Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representatives Henry “Hank” Johnson (D-GA), Jim Himes (D-CT), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Jim McDermott (D-WA), James McGovern (D-MA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Jim Moran (D-VA), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rosa De Lauro (D-CT), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Keith Ellison (D-MD), Alcee Hasting (D-FL) and Donna Edwards (D-MD). “Many of these reports involve the torture of human rights defenders and political prisoners.”
Reports of torture in Bahrain have led to calls for an independent investigation. As the U.N. Special Rapporteur, Mendez is mandated to submit urgent appeals to states regarding individuals reported to be at risk of torture or who have allegedly suffered torture in the past; to undertake fact-finding country visits; and to submit annual reports on activities to the U.N. Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. Bahrain’s cancellation of Mendez’s trip presents a serious roadblock in his ability to carry out this mandate.
In their letter, the Members of Congress noted, “Torture is universally prohibited under international law. The use of torture contradicts your government’s commitment during the 2012 Universal Periodic Review to bring its domestic law in line with the definition of torture under its international obligations. The Government of Bahrain’s refusal to allow Juan Mendez to visit the country is also inconsistent with recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), including torture allegations be independently investigated, which your government agreed to implement.”
Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who has also been refused entry into Bahrain, observed, “Members of Congress are right to speak out against Bahrain’s refusal to admit Mendez to the Kingdom. If the government of Bahrain has nothing to hide, it should have no qualms about complying with this request from U.S. Members of Congress and it should immediately allow Mendez access to the country. It should also permit other outside observers to enter Bahrain, including Human Rights First.”