July 19, 2011
After Opposition’s Withdrawal, U.S. Urged to Declare its Position on National Dialogue in Bahrain
Washington, D.C.—The U.S. government should immediately and publicly declare whether it still supports the Bahraini government's National Dialogue after the country's main opposition party, Al Wefaq, has officially withdrawn, said Human Rights First today. “A wide range of human rights defenders in Bahrain told us last week the dialogue is cosmetic, and the U.S. government is losing credibility by being associated with it," said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who just returned from a fact finding mission in Bahrain. “Even as the dialogue sessions meet, the Bahraini government continues to shoot at civilians, detain opposition members, torture human rights defenders and intimidate all those who speak out.” Last week, Human Rights First released a new report on the continuing human rights crackdown in Bahrain. The report is based on eye-witness testimonies and in-country interviews with human rights defenders, and includes recommendations for the U.S. and Bahraini governments. The complete report and recommendations can be found here. “Human rights defenders told us the Bahraini government must rebuild community trust before any dialogue can be real," added Dooley. "They argue that the U.S. government has influence it can use in persuading the Bahraini government to take necessary confidence-building steps. These steps include: stopping all violence against peaceful protesters, ending the abuse and torture of all detainees --and giving them medical attention and visits from their families--and releasing all political detainees and members of the opposition. It's time the U.S. government uses that influence." The main Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq, withdrew from the National Dialogue on Sunday, claiming it would not lead to real reforms. The group’s spokesperson said that the opposition has been marginalized in the talks, and that their presence has been merely to add credibility to a flawed process.