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May 13, 2011

Secretary Clinton Urged to Convene Special Session on Bahraini Human Rights Abuses

Washington, D.C. — Representatives of human rights groups sent a letter today to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly urging the United States to support efforts at the United Nations Human Rights Council to convene a special session on Bahrain in order to condemn the harsh violations of human rights by government forces. The letter was signed by: Aung Din (U.S. Campaign for Burma), Dokhi Fassihian (Democracy Coalition Project), Jerry Fowler (Open Society Foundations), Hans Hogrefe (Physicians for Human Rights), Don Kraus (Citizens for Global Solutions), T. Kumar (Amnesty International USA), Tom Malinowski (Human Rights Watch), Theodore Piccone (The Brookings Institution) and Tad Stahnke (Human Rights First). The letter follows up on the April 29 Special Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), in which the U.S. played a major role in leading the Council to a resolution for an investigation of the brutality used against dissenters in Syria.   The coalition is calling upon the U.S. to show the same leadership when it comes to the dire human rights situation in Bahrain. The Bahraini government is pursuing a policy of punitive retribution against thousands of Bahrainis solely because they are calling for an end to discrimination and a more representative government.  Yesterday, 21 protestors were tried in a courtroom that violated many basic principles of international fair trial standards, including barring human rights observers from the courtroom and denying defendants access to counsel.  Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley reported from the courthouse in Manama, “The atmosphere around the courthouse was heavily militarized, including with armed soldiers wearing black masks.”  The daughter of one defendant reported that her father, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja,  had suffered beatings so brutal he had to undergo surgery in a military hospital – and then the beatings resumed. On April 28, a special military court established after Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa declared martial law, sentenced four civilians To date, more than 600-- activists, opposition party leaders and activists, medical personnel, journalists and bloggers-- have been arbitrarily detained, and at least four detainees have died in custody from alleged torture or medical neglect.  At least four civilians have been sentenced to death and three others to life in prison, also in trials that did not meet international fair trial standards. The letter states that U.S. leadership proved “essential in obtaining recent HRC actions on Syria, as well as on Libya and Iran,” and its engagement has strengthened the Council.  The U.S. has every interest in building on this record, and should apply its focus on a special session on Bahrain.  Through the HRC and other mechanisms, human rights violations must be investigated and perpetrators of serious abuses held to account.  

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