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June 07, 2016

State Department Urged to Submit Overdue Report on Bahrain’s Progress Toward Reform to Congress

Washington, D.C. - Human Rights First today urged the State Department to submit its congressionally-mandated report assessing the extent to which the Bahraini government has implemented the recommendations of the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report. The call came in a letter to Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson asking her to release the report, which was mandated as part of the omnibus appropriations bill enacted in December of 2015 and due to Congress by February 1 of this year.

"This assessment is now more than four months overdue and it’s hard to see why it’s taking this long. What is required of the State Department is not painting the Sistine Chapel, it’s just producing a straightforward report on whether or not Bahrain has implemented 26 recommendations,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley.

June 29 will mark the anniversary of the State Department’s 2015 decision to lift holds on security assistance to Bahrain, which were originally put in place following Bahrain’s crackdown on peaceful protestors calling for reform in 2011. This week the leader of the BICI, international human rights lawyer Professor Cherif Bassiouni, said that only 10 of the 26 recommendations for reform have been substantially implemented since 2011. 

"Members of Congress are keenly awaiting the receipt of this report as they ponder co-sponsorship of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Accountability Act of 2015 [that] would prohibit the U.S. government from selling or transferring to Bahrain specified weapons and crowd control items until the Department of State certifies that Bahrain has fully implemented all 26 recommendations set forth in the 2011 BICI report. For too long, the U.S. government has failed to adequately respond to the Bahraini government’s crushing of peaceful dissent, rewarding the regime with more arms without regard for its failure to implement the reforms it committed to in 2011,” wrote Dooley in the letter.

Since the 2011 violent government crackdown on mass protests, the United States has failed to back up rhetoric supporting human rights and civil society with action, downplaying these priorities in favor of short-term military objectives. A recent Human Rights First blueprint outlines recommendations for the U.S. government to support civil society and strengthen respect for human rights.

For more information or to speak with Dooley contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at margolisme@humanrightsfirst.org or 212-845-5269.