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August 01, 2011

U.S. Should Clarify Position on Discredited Bahrain National Dialogue

Washington, DC – Following this past weekend’s release of the Bahraini National Dialogue’s recommendations to King Hamadbin Isa al-Khalifa, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley issued the following statement: “The U.S. government should clarify its position on the discredited Bahraini National Dialogue that failed to address fundamental issues of reform or human rights. Its recommendations have been met with widespread disappointment from human rights activists within the country. It recommends minor reforms to how the parliament of Bahrain operates, and falls far short of tackling fundamental problems of sectarian discrimination and other human rights violations. “The U.S. government has not disassociated itself from its earlier support for the dialogue despite the main opposition party, Al Wefaq, walking out of the process halfway through. In addition, many of the opposition leaders remained in detention during the national dialogue and the process went forward despite continued arrests, the detention of political and human rights activists, and shooting of unarmed civilians. The dialogue was a discussion between 300 members of Bahraini society that met a few times a week throughout the month of July. “At the start of the dialogue President Obama described it as ‘an important moment of promise for the people of Bahrain,’ and he commended the Bahraini King for his leadership in initiating the process. This praise baffled many Bahrainis because six weeks earlier President Obama had told the Bahraini government, ‘You can't have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.’ Bahraini pro-democracy protestors wonder where the U.S. stands now, and it’s time it made its position clear. “The U.S. government should clarify whether it still believes this discredited process is the way forward for reform in Bahrain. It should also make clear that for any real meaningful discussion to happen, the Bahraini government must stop shooting protesters, stop arresting and detaining people for their peaceful actions, stop targeting medical professionals who treat the injured, and stop firing workers and expelling students who are suspected of pro-democracy sympathies.”    

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