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17 Senators and Members of Congress call for the release of Nabeel Rajab and all Bahrainis detained for crimes related to freedom of expression

August 10, 2012

His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa AI-Khalifa
The Amiri Court, Riffa Palace
P.O. Box 555
Manama, Bahrain

Your Royal Highness,

We write to express our concern regarding Nabeel Rajab and other Bahrainis who have been prosecuted for crimes related to freedom of expression. We understand Mr. Rajab was imprisoned for calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister via Twitter, an Internet-messaging program. We respectfully request that you use your authority to order Mr. Rajab’s release under the universal principle that all citizens should have the right to peacefully express disagreement with their government.

Reports indicate many Bahrainis have been imprisoned for peaceful political activities since the start of pro-democracy demonstrations in February 2011. According to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), the National Safety Courts convicted approximately 300 people for exercising their right to free expression and peaceful assembly. Since Your Excellency’s endorsement of the BICI report and its recommendations, Bahraini officials have repeatedly stated that individuals prosecuted for political speech would be released, and that no one would face prosecution for exercising these rights.

We recognize that the Bahraini government has taken positive steps to implement certain BICI recommendations. These steps represent important progress. However, recent charges against Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, run counter to the government’s assurances that individuals will not be prosecuted for peaceful political speech. Bahraini authorities have prosecuted Mr. Rajab five separate times, and in each case the charges appear to have been based on peaceful dissent and peaceful protests. Mr. Rajab was sentenced to three months in prison after “tweeting” that the Prime Minister should resign.

Mr. Rajab is also facing three other active prosecutions related to “illegal gatherings;” however, reports indicate prosecutors have produced no evidence that the protests at issue were violent or threatened violence.

In sum, we remain very concerned about the ongoing prosecution of peaceful opposition activists such as Nabeel Rajab for taking part in activities protected by international law and the Bahraini Constitution, notwithstanding Your Excellency’s acceptance of the BICI recommendations and the government’s reassurances that it does not conduct political prosecutions.  We therefore respectfully urge the government to unconditionally and immediately release all Bahrainis being held for crimes related to freedom of expression.

Sincerely,

Keith Ellison, Member of Congress

Patrick Leahy, United States Senator

John Conyers, Member of Congress

Ron Wyden, United States Senator

Raul Grijalva, Member of Congress

Alcee Hastings, Member of Congress

Rush Holt, Member of Congress

Michael Honda, Member of Congress

Hank Johnson, Member of Congress

Barbara Lee, Member of Congress

Zoe Lofgren, Member of Congress

James P. McGovern, Member of Congress

James P. Moran, Member of Congress

John Olver, Member of Congress

Jared Polis, Member of Congress

Charles Rangel, Member of Congress

Jan Schakowsky, Member of Congress

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Familiar refrain characterizes Posner’s remarks at Congressional hearing on Bahrain

Assistant Secretary of State (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor) Michael Posner appeared as a witness at the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights hearing yesterday in Washington, DC.

In his remarks, Mr. Posner restated many of the points he has made on other occasions.  He diverged very little from the stance the State Department has taken almost from the beginning of the conflict in Bahrain.  He reiterated that the abuse of human rights in Bahrain is Bahrain’s problem to solve, praised the government’s progress toward reform, and affirmed the Administration’s partnership with the regime.  He also expressed concern about the trials and imprisonment of activists and medics, but stopped short of saying Nabeel Rajab should be released, when questioned on that point, seeming to suggest that the arrest and detention may be considered a legitimate action for some unexpressed reason.

Frustrating to this observer, Posner once again drew the  comparison between violent acts by protesters and the regime’s security forces.  It is misleading to compare a few isolated, but unfortunate, violent incidents by a small minority of protesters with the daily and systematic, full-scale assaults by the vastly more vicious and better-armed regime security forces, including unprovoked attacks on peaceful demonstrators and innocent bystanders.  There is no parity here in force or impact, nor is there any evidence of parity, yet Posner continues to call on both sides to exercise restraint with equal emphasis.

To add insult to injury, he stated that the same government that tortured its citizens, imprisoned activists, and prosecuted its doctors showed “courage” in owning up to its offenses to the world in the face of undeniable proof.

Courage is not a term that most people of conscience equate with the government of Bahrain these days.

Notably absent from his remarks were any comments on the use of tear gas, bird shot pellets, and rubber bullets, nor did he make any reference to the children and adults who had been maimed or killed by security forces and the deplorable prison conditions suffered by the unjustly imprisoned political activists.

Few were surprised when Representative Dan Burton expressed satisfaction with Mr. Posner’s remarks at the conclusion of his testimony.

The text of his testimony, plus video link, is below.


Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing and for your sustained concern about Bahrain and the current challenges there. I appreciate the opportunity to appear here today to outline the administration’s views with respect to Bahrain.

Context: Bahrain is an important strategic partner at a crossroads

We all recognize Bahrain’s importance as a longtime partner of the United States in the Gulf region. For more than 60 years, the United States military has worked closely with its Bahraini counterparts. The Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, and the country serves as a pillar of our regional security strategy in the Gulf region. The U.S. – Bahrain relationship is particularly important in the face of rising threats from Iran.

Our longstanding alliance with Bahrain is based on shared political, economic, and security interests. And it is in part because of this important strategic relationship that we have devoted so much attention to Bahrain in the last 18 months. The demonstrations and violent confrontations that shook Bahrain last February and March were traumatic to all segments of Bahraini society. And although the violence has diminished significantly in recent months, Bahrain is still a deeply divided nation struggling to regain its equilibrium.

As partners and friends who care deeply about Bahrain’s future, we must be straightforward in our assessments. This is not a time for complacency or wishful thinking. It is a time for the United States and others to work with the government and the political opposition and to urge a new approach to dialogue, about which I will say more in a moment.

It is in this challenging political context that I have traveled to Bahrain five times in the last 18 months, most recently in June, each time meeting with senior government officials, lawyers, journalists, medical professionals, civil society groups, human rights advocates, and several political societies. This visit, my meetings focused on 1) the current situation for human rights in Bahrain following the unrest in February and March of last year, 2) the need for inclusive dialogue and negotiation, and 3) implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report.

The current situation for human rights in Bahrain

In a number of ways, Bahrain today is more stable than it was a year ago. Last year, the government showed courage in inviting Cherif Bassiouni to initiate the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). The BICI process was unprecedented both in its scope and the unfettered access the BICI team were granted. King Hamad deserves great credit for initiating this commission and for allowing an independent body to take a critical look at Bahrain’s human rights record and to report so extensively on its findings. We also commend the King for accepting and committing to implement the recommendations of the BICI report. And after a worrying period of rising violence in the streets by both demonstrators and police, violence has subsided this summer.

Despite these positive accomplishments, my recent visit revealed deep divisions within Bahraini society and between many Bahrainis and their government. Almost nightly confrontations, including a number that end in violence between young protestors and the police, and the recent discovery of sophisticated bomb-making materials in Salmabad and Hamad Town punctuate the need for urgent action to heal the divisions in society and bring peace and prosperity to all of its people.

We are concerned that more than a year after the release of the BICI report, we see reports of continuing reprisals against Bahraini citizens who attempt to exercise their universal rights to free expression and assembly. For example, on March 31, 2012, Ahmed Ismail Hassan, a 22-year-old videographer, was shot and killed while filming a pro-reform demonstration. This is one incident in a pattern of reports of activists and demonstrators being injured and mistreated in interactions with the police.

Moreover, permits for organized demonstrations are often denied. Over the past month, Bahrain has stopped granting permits for organized demonstrations in central Manama, and has announced a study to identify suitable locations for protests away from the downtown area. While the study may be a useful opportunity to initiate constructive dialogue, including with the opposition, it must not be used as a mechanism to restrict the universal right to peaceful protest. At the same time, we urge Wifaq and others who organize demonstrations to do their utmost to ensure that those gatherings remain peaceful.

Urgent need for dialogue

Since February and March 2011 there have been numerous calls – including by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and members of the international community – for broad political dialogue that will lead to a way forward on political reform.

While dialogue and negotiation can only occur among Bahrainis themselves, as a friend and partner of Bahrain, the United States has encouraged dialogue in a variety of different forms over the last 18 months. But despite numerous attempts, attempts at dialogue have broken down. There is little evidence that Bahrain is moving toward a negotiated political agreement on issues such as the powers of parliament and electoral districting.

On my recent visit, I observed that both people in the government and the political opposition felt that time is on their side. This is a misguided and dangerous perception. Bahrain needs dialogue and negotiation to build a strong national consensus about its political future, strengthen its economic standing, and make it a more prosperous country and a more stable ally of the United States. We are pursuing a two-track strategy to reinforce those elements within Bahraini society that are working to promote meaningful dialogue and negotiation.

On the first track, we continue to encourage the government, all political organizations, and civil society to come to the table for a broad, open negotiation about the political future of the country. The current stalemate requires bold leadership from all sides – people who are ready to negotiate now, without preconditions, and to trust the other sides to come to the table in a spirit of investment in Bahrain’s political, economic, and social future. As we have said, the country’s political future is a matter for Bahrainis to negotiate themselves. But as the government did with the BICI process, there is room to invite technical facilitation of Bahraini-led dialogue.

On the second track, we also are encouraging the government to sit down with political and civil society organizations, and ordinary citizens, to try to make progress on issues that matter to people’s everyday lives, such as safety, health, education, labor, and policing.

One positive example of this kind of engagement is the Tripartite Committee’s work with the International Labor Organization (ILO), Bahraini employers, the Bahrain Federation of Trade Unions, and the Ministry of Labor to resolve the longstanding issue of reinstatement of more than 2,000 dismissed workers. We are encouraged by the success of this effort, both in terms of a fair outcome for many of the dismissed workers and the process that led to this outcome. Working with the ILO, the different stakeholders negotiated with each other over the course of several weeks to agree on an inclusive approach for evaluating and making decisions about how to resolve the issue of dismissed workers. While there will no doubt be bumps in the road, there the partners developed a framework for making decisions that shared power among the different stakeholders.

The issue of public safety and policing practices is another area that we see as being ripe for this kind of dialogue and negotiation. We are encouraged by steps undertaken by the Ministry of Interior to initiate some institutional reforms that will make the police more accountable and professional. The change in leadership in the police under General Tariq al Hassan, a career police officer, also is an encouraging sign. We await the results of the announced plan to hire 500 new officers who represent all elements of Bahraini society. And we welcome the announcement earlier this week by the Minister of the Interior that his office will launch investigations of the human rights violations by police officers documented in the BICI report.

But it is not enough for the government to dictate solutions to problems with policing amidst ongoing reports of the abuse of tear gas, birdshot, and other disproportionate mechanisms to control crowds and silence peaceful protestors. While we have consistently condemned the use of Molotov cocktails and other violent measures by some demonstrators, we also have been consistent in our criticism of the use of excessive force by some police.

What underlies the use of excessive force by police and the use of violent tactics by protestors is a fundamental lack of trust between the police and the people whom the police are meant to serve. Trust can only begin to be established through genuine dialogue between the police and the communities they serve. We encourage the government to take the lead in establishing a forum or a process – perhaps with outside technical facilitation – for discussion of public safety and policing practices.

One model we have discussed regularly with the government and others is the Patten Commission, which worked over the course of several years to redefine the mission and practices of police in Northern Ireland. For such a process to work, citizens, community and religious leaders, and civil society organizations must be willing to engage with the government and the police to begin rebuilding the trust that will lead to genuine stability and peace in Bahraini communities.

BICI implementation

The United States continues to encourage the Government of Bahrain to fulfill its commitment to fully implement the recommendations of the BICI report. We understand that full implementation will take time. We commend the government for the initial steps it took toward implementation, particularly in the period leading up to the release of the National Commission report in March 2012.

The Government of Bahrain has taken many important steps toward the long-term institutional reforms identified in the report, such as removing arrest authority from the national security agency, drafting legislation concerning the investigation and prosecution of torture, and drafting a code of conduct for police based on international best practices. The government also has allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross access to its prisons. It has begun to rebuild religious sites, and engaged a team of qualified experts to advise on policing and legal reforms. These are signs of the government’s commitment to address the underlying cause of last year’s violence.

The Government of Bahrain needs to take action on the full range of other BICI recommendations that we believe will help lay the foundation for longer-term reform and reconciliation. These include dropping charges against all persons accused of offenses involving peaceful political expression including freedom of assembly, prosecuting those officials responsible for the violations identified in the BICI report, and ensuring fair and expeditious trials in appeals cases. It also means continuing work to professionalize and diversify Bahrain’s security forces to reflect the communities which they serve.

First, there are several hundred pending criminal cases related to the events of February and March 2011. Many individuals have been in detention for over a year. The government continues to prosecute 20 political activists and appeals cases are ongoing in the prosecution of respected medical professionals. In addition to the ongoing cases against doctors and nurses, we are discouraged by the Court of Appeals’ decision to issue a gag-order banning the media from reporting on trials for the 20 high-profile activists. We urge the Government of Bahrain to ensure fair and expeditious trials in appeals cases and to drop charges against all persons accused of offenses involving political expression and freedom of assembly.

The United States was deeply disappointed that, despite assurances to the contrary, the government sought and received convictions in nine of 18 felony cases against medical professionals before the appellate court, with sentences ranging from one month to five years. While we are not privy to all of the facts, we have consistently urged the government to exercise prosecutorial discretion in these cases and to drop the charges in the interest of turning the page on the events of last year.

The prosecution of these cases is a sign of larger divisions within the health care system in Bahrain. I was alarmed to hear reports from all sides of Bahraini society during my recent visit about the tense environment for medical care in Bahrain. Young men often elect not to seek treatment in public clinics and hospitals when they are injured for fear of being turned in to the police by their doctors on allegations of participating in demonstrations. I also heard that Shi’a Bahrainis now only seek treatment from Shi’a doctors and Sunnis only seek treatment from Sunnis. And the ongoing felony cases against some of Bahrain’s most highly specialized doctors means the country is facing a shortage of talent in critical specialties. There is much work to be done to heal the divisions in the health care system and restore the reputation of Bahrain as a regional leader in medical services.

Second, we call on the Government of Bahrain to hold accountable those officials responsible for the violations described in the BICI report. At the beginning of the year, the government reported that 48 people from the security forces were being investigated for their roles in suppressing protests. So far only nine policemen – five Pakistani and one Yemeni national and three Bahrainis – are known to have been brought to trial for human rights violations. Very little information has been made public about how these investigations were conducted and their trials have been repeatedly adjourned and postponed.

Third, as discussed above, further efforts need to be made to enhance the professionalization of the police. Ongoing violence in the streets between police and protesters points to the need for professional, integrated police and security forces that reflect the diversity of the communities they serve and that adopt a community policing approach.

Bahrain and the Arab Awakening

In conclusion, I want to say a word about Bahrain in the context of the Arab Awakening and the transitions occurring in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Many people wish to compare Bahrain to other countries in the region such as Tunisia or Egypt. While some comparisons may be valid, it also is very important to recognize the unique history and political and economic development in each of these countries, and to shape our policies accordingly. President Obama has said that stable, democratic societies make the best partners and allies. And so while there is no single path or timetable to forging a real democracy, there are a core set of underlying principles that, as Secretary Clinton recently noted “have to be enshrined not only in the constitution, not only in the institutions of government, but in the hearts and minds of the people.”

Our aim is to encourage all sides to come to the table so that meaningful dialogue and negotiation can get underway in a process that will begin to heal existing divisions within the society and set Bahrain on a course toward greater freedom and prosperity for all Bahrainis. As a partner and friend, the United States stands ready to support the government and the people of Bahrain as they seek pathways toward meaningful dialogue about the future of the country.

Congressional Hearing on BICI to take place Wednesday, August 1

Public Congressional hearing on Bahrain

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing this Wednesday in Washington, DC to hear witnesses report on the extent to which the government of Bahrain has implemented the human rights protections recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in November 2011.

The hearing is open to the public and will take place in Room 2237 of the Rayburn House Office Building (second floor) on Wednesday, August 1, from 1 pm to 3 pm.

The Rayburn Office Building occupies a site southwest of the Capitol bounded by Independence Avenue, South Capitol Street, C Street S.W., and First Street S.W. (View map) in Washington, DC.

Witnesses will appear in three panels.

The witness for the first panel will be Ron Wyden, U.S. Senator for Oregon.  Senator Wyden was one of 24 senators and congressional representatives to oppose the sale of arms to Bahrain.

The witness for the second panel will be Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.  Mr. Posner has visited Bahrain five times in the past two years, the most recently on June 12 of this year, when he spoke to the press at the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain.

Four witnesses will testify on the third and final panel.  They will be

Matar Ebrahim Matar, former member of Bahrain’s parliament and leading member of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, the largest political party in Bahrain.  Mr. Matar recently appeared on Al Jazeera’s television news program, The Stream (video link) to opine about the state of reforms in Bahrain.

Leslie Campbell, Senior Associate Director and Regional Director of Middle East and North Africa Programs, National Democratic Institute.  Headquartered in Washington, DC, the National Democratic Institute was formed by the U.S. government to foster movements toward democracy in foreign nations, and is funded both by taxpayers (through the State Department and other agencies) and by contributions from foreign governments (including, notably, the Kingdom of Bahrain) and donations from others.  The organization’s work in Bahrain has focused on encouraging citizen participation in elections.

Tom Walinowski, Director of Human Rights Watch.  Human Rights Watch is a New York-based nonprofit organization that has advocated for human rights in Bahrain.

Richard Sollom, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights.  This organization has advocated for dismissal of charges against the Bahraini medics and has called for a cease of the indiscriminate and excessive use of tear gas in Bahrain, which has been linked to fatalities and miscarriages.  The nonprofit is based in Massachusetts.

Directions from Metro

From Union Station:

Start off going around Columbus Circle and joining 1st Street Northeast, going south. Take a left onto D Street, and shortly afterward a right onto 2nd Street Northeast.  Follow 2nd Street South until it becomes 2nd Street Southeast, then take a right onto C Street Southeast.  Follow C Street down the hill.  The Rayburn House Office Building will be the fourth large building on your right, at the bottom of the hill.

From Capitol South Station:

Start off walking north on 1st Street, and cross C Street. Take a left and walk down the hill, following C Street. The Rayburn House Office Building will be the third large building on your right, at the bottom of the hill.

From Federal Center Southwest Station:

Start off walking north on 3rd Street, and take a right at C Street.  Follow C Street to 2nd Street, then cross the road and the park. Stay on C Street across the roads, and you will see the Rayburn House Office Building on your left.

The Tom Lantos Commission is co-chaired by James P. McGovern and Frank R. Wolf.

Torture continues in Bahrain, eight months after BICI report

The BICI report was released on November 23, 2011.

Today, on July 9, 2012, protesters and anyone unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in Bahrain are still being shot, teargassed, beaten, detained, and tortured.

Eight months of promises and very little improvement on the human rights front.

Photos tell the story…

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Ambassador Donahoe calls for reforms in Bahrain

Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe is the U...

Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe is the U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council. U.S. State Department Official Portrait. Biography of Ambassador Donahoe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Amanda Donahoe, addressed the human rights situation in Bahrain in her statement to the Council yesterday.

Ambassador Donahoe stated:

The Government of Bahrain has taken steps to implement the recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), but it must fully implement the remaining important recommendations. For example, it needs to hold accountable officials responsible for human rights violations, including deaths in custody resulting from torture, to drop charges against all persons accused of crimes based on their political expression, and to ensure fair and expeditious trials in appeals cases, such as those of the medical professionals. The Government of Bahrain also needs to prevent the use of excessive force by the police and to diversify police forces to reflect the communities in which they serve.  We also urge the Government to respect its citizens’ rights to free expression, free association and free assembly, and to facilitate access to Bahrain for journalists and civil society organizations.

Across the Middle East, and around the world, governments are being called on to ensure the human rights and aspirations of their citizens, to follow through on their promises to uphold those rights, and to hold accountable those who have committed serious human rights violations – including by effectively prosecuting officials responsible for those violations.  The international community stands ready to assist those who seek our help.

Today as we bear witness to the tides of change and progress currently underway in the Middle East and North Africa, we urge governments to recommit themselves to their most imperative responsibility: the protection and promotion of human rights for each and every citizen.

The Bahrain Coordinating Committee is grateful to Ambassador Donahoe for her statement, and is gratified that the people of Bahrain have her support  and that of the UN Human Rights Council.  We call on the government of Bahrain to accept her offer of assistance to institute needed reforms without delay.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner reiterates calls for accountability, restraint in Bahrain

United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Michael H. Posner, visited Bahrain last week.  In his comments to the press, he called for the government of Bahrain to prosecute those people responsible for atrocities, as identified in the BICI report, and to acquit all doctors and nurses from the Salmanyia Medical Complex who face charges.

He also called for diversifcation in Bahrain’s security forces — they are comprised of Sunni Bahrainis and foreign personnel, but not Shia Bahainis — and for increased training for the forces.  He also reinforced the need for restraint on the part of the security forces.

Repeatedly, however, he asserted that the situation in Bahrain is that country’s problem to solve, and that the United States would not dictate the terms of reconciliation.

Here are his comments (from June 14, 2012). The emphases are mine.

Good afternoon and thank you for coming today.  This is my fifth visit to Bahrain in the last 18 months.  I welcome the opportunity to be here to continue discussions of mutual interest and importance to Bahrain and the United States.  Bahrain remains an important partner, ally and friend of the United States.

During my visit, I have met with senior government officials, as well as lawyers, journalists, medical professionals, human rights advocates, and members of several political societies.  I have learned much about developments in Bahrain since my last visit in February of this year.   My discussions here have been productive, open, lively and reflective of the strong and longstanding relationship between the people and governments of our two countries.

My discussions with a broad cross-section of Bahrainis have focused primarily on the status of – and prospects for – a comprehensive political dialogue in Bahrain, as well as the process of implementing the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).  The Government of Bahrain has taken some important first steps in laying the foundation for dialogue and for reconciliation in Bahrain.  We are pleased, for instance, to see a great number of workers reinstated in their jobs, students back to school and that the ICRC has been able to gain access to prisons.  While the street violence has diminished to some degree, we continue to urge protestors to reject the use of Molotov cocktails and other violent attacks on police.  We also urge the police to refrain from the use of excessive force. It is noteworthy that the government has engaged with the ILO in the reinstatement of workers and is compensating the victims of last year’s unrest.  These measures signal a commitment to addressing some of the underlying causes of the unrest which is crucial to building trust in Bahrain.

However, much remains to be done.  The Government of Bahrain needs to take action on the full range of other BICI recommendations that we believe will help lay the foundation for longer-term reform and reconciliation. This includes prosecuting those officials responsible for the violations identified in the BICI report, dropping charges against all persons accused of offenses involving political expression including freedom of assembly, and ensuring fair and expeditious trials in appeals cases.  It also means continuing work to professionalize and diversify Bahrain’s security forces to reflect the communities which they serve.  Working to implement the recommendations of the BICI in an inclusive way will enhance trust and create the space for dialogue and negotiation.

Today, an appeals court in Bahrain upheld the convictions of nine medics and acquitted nine others associated with protests last year at the Salmaniya Medical Complex.  While sentences were reduced, we are deeply disappointed by these convictions, and that the Bahraini government did not use alternative means to address these cases. As we have said in the past, these convictions appear to be based, at least in part, on the defendants’ criticisms of government actions and policies.  The defendants are appealing these convictions to the Court of Cassation. We urge an expedited review of these convictions and that the medics be allowed to remain at home pending appeal. We hope that this review will result in a dismissal of criminal charges in the interest of turning the page on the events of last year and repairing the social fabric of Bahrain.

Above all, we continue to call on all parties in Bahrain to help each other move toward a comprehensive political dialogue that includes the diverse views of Bahraini society in a genuine negotiation.  Progress toward such a dialogue has slowed, polarization in Bahraini society has increased and the social fabric has frayed.  Dialogue has never been more urgent, as polarization in Bahrain society increases and the social fabric becomes more frayed.  It will take courage and leadership on all sides to bring Bahrainis of all backgrounds and views to the table.  We believe dialogue is needed on two tracks.  First, the government should continue to work with opposition political societies on negotiation of the political future of the country.  Secondly, there is a need for dialogue on issues of practical importance to all Bahrainis that enhances the sense of all people in Bahrain that they have a stake in the country’s future.  We call on the government and others in the society to seek creative and inclusive approaches to dialogue and negotiation.  This process will naturally take time.  As Bahrain’s friend and partner, the United States of America stands ready to support you.

QUESTION: The United States is putting pressure on Bahrain’s government to enter dialogue. Did you meet with Al Wefaq? What was your message to the Shia opposition?

ANSWER: We are continuing to do what we’ve done for the last year and a half which is to be a partner to both the government and the people of Bahrain. It is not for us, but for the people of Bahrain to find the path to reconciliation and dialogue. We continue to urge both the government and the various political societies, including Al Wefaq, to be active in that process and to take steps to make that process a success. And yes, we met with Al Wefaq today and we conveyed that message.

QUESTION: What was your message?

ANSWER: The message was to engage in the political process and negotiation and dialogue; to take the high road in terms of urging an end to violence on the street, and to be part of the coming together of this society and working with others across the society in negotiating the future.

QUESTION: You said the government needs to make a dialogue in two parts – did the government accept this? What did the government say?

ANSWER: Let’s separate two different things: What I said is the government and the various political societies need to find a way for a negotiation over political questions, and the government’s clear that they want to negotiate with the range of political societies. The second thing I said is that there are a number of areas where, on a parallel track, discussion, negotiation and dialogue can be a way to build confidence and greater trust – issues like the composition of the police, like health or housing. So there are issues related to the society and how it functions every day and the more there’s discussion of those issues, it helps set an environment where the political dialogue is more likely to succeed.

QUESTION: We are hearing a lot about the BICI, but not a lot is happening on the ground. We saw there was an official statement yesterday threatening civil society, saying they went beyond what is permitted. What will happen to the rest of the nine medics? Many of them were charged with occupying the hospital and storing weapons… Are you advising the government to drop the charges? And dropping charges for the misdemeanors? About the violence: There is a critical case of a 4 year old boy who was not protesting, he was with his father selling fish. What is the opinion of the State Department in the regard?

ANSWER: First question was on the status of the BICI recommendations. We had a range of discussions with people in the government about the status of those recommendations. The Minister of Justice has now assumed responsibility for next steps. There is a complimentary process in terms of acting on the recommendation of the Universal Periodic Review which echoed some of the same points. With the government, we discussed issues of accountability, and there are a number of cases now in the courts, other cases being investigated by a special investigative unit in the Attorney General’s office. Most of those cases haven’t been decided but that’s an area where there’s activity and it’s something we’ve been following closely.

The second are the range of cases still pending involving criminal charges, felonies and misdemeanors that occurred last February and March and again we had discussions with the government about the importance of resolving those cases and for those who have simply expressed views that are critical of government or assembled peacefully. Our view is that those charges should be dropped.

And third, we had discussions about the continuing process of reinstating workers dismissed last year. A number of people have been reinstated but some remain unresolved. We also discussed a broader recommendation of the BICI, which is the need to integrate the police and have the police force be more reflective of the society it serves.

With regard to the speeches and public comments of the last couple of days, I won’t comment specifically but I will say that we hope that the level of rhetoric and language be brought down so there can be an environment conducive to constructive, practical discussion. We discussed it with the government; we discussed it with the political societies. There’s a great deal of tension in the society a great deal of division and language can be a barrier if its inflammatory.

As for the doctors, I’ve said several things and I’m not going to say much more. We’ve said we’re deeply disappointed by the convictions. We said we believe that the decisions were based, in part, on the defendants’ criticisms of government actions and policies. And we said that we hope the appeals process will yield dismissal in the interest of turning the page on events of last year and repairing the social fabric. I’m not going to get into the details of the cases, but in the larger effort of bringing the society together, we hope that there can be an alternative way to address these cases.

In terms of acts of what you termed ‘harassment,’ our hope and expectation is that civil society groups will be allowed to operate freely, to be critical of the government when they deem it necessary. We had a very good meeting today with the Minister of Human Rights today about the role of civil society and the importance of groups being allowed to operate – we’ll continue to pursue that.

With respect to violence on the street, we continue to condemn both the violence by the protestors, often young kids hurling Molotov cocktails and other objects at the police; that’s unacceptable conduct. And we’ve also said and will say again that we’re concerned about the excessive use of force by police in some instances, included the excessive use of tear gas.

QUESTION: Please tell us what the prospects for dialogue are given the political climate? How can the opposition seize the opportunity?

ANSWER: I think this is a critical moment when there’s a pressing need for all of the parties to do all they can to engage in a dialogue and negotiation and do all they can to bring society together. There’s a degree of division here that is not good and this is a moment where, across the board, parties, whether the government or various societies need to redouble their efforts to be part of a constructive dialogue.

QUESTION: Al Wefaq, for a fact, has clearly said they won’t engage in dialogue unless the Manama Document and all the five opposition groups are brought to the table and BICI recommendations (inaudible)… The NUG also will not enter talks. These are top people from the Secretary General and senior people. This is the same as putting conditions. Both parties have said they condemn violence. What do you think of the political stalemate? Also, you met the Minister of Interior. Was the topic of accountability raised and what was the response?

ANSWER: In any negotiation or dialogue over differences parties say a range of things which make getting to the table more difficult. So our message, we met with the National Unity Gathering, we met with Wifaq, we met with Wa’ad, we met with a range of government ministries so our message to everybody is that it’s time to take a fresh look and think creatively about how to come to the table, begin the discussion and reach an outcome that benefits everyone in the society. The society, everybody in a society, stands to benefit if there is a successful dialogue that leads to a compromise that brings everybody into a common vision of the future. If you get bogged down on what one party said, you are not likely to move forward.

On the issue of accountability, we raised the issue in various ways with the Attorney General, the Justice Minister, as well as the Minister of the Interior, as well as the Minister for follow up on the royal court and our message is again, as I reflected in my opening comment, this is an important piece of the implementation of the BICI recommendations. It’s also an important piece for moving forward. There were a number of egregious cases, particularly those of individuals who died in custody, and it’s important that there is successful prosecutions in some of those cases ad we will follow them closely.

QUESTION: Inaudible.

ANSWER: As I said in my opening statement and I’ll say it again: we condemn the violence, we condemn it. With no qualifications it should stop now. As you say, it involves not only Molotov cocktails, but also various explosives, metal pellets being thrown at the police, the police are in a dangerous situation– violence should stop.

QUESTION: You said you’ve already spoken with Waad – what’s coming out as a concrete solution?

ANSWER: We raised these issues.

It’s critical that all parties here, all leaders, condemn violence and urge their supporters to stop engaging in violent acts. It’s also important, we talked to the Interior Minister about this and the Chief of Police, it’s important that the police use restraint. I’m not equating the two, but there needs to be a reduction of violence and confrontation.

QUESTION: Regarding the dialogue between the government and political parties – the government wants all to sit together but in the meantime, the opposition says they want to sit with the government but not others because it is the decision maker. But they are delaying… How do you see this?

ANSWER: I’m not going to comment on who said what but my view is that everyone, every party, the political parties and the government all bear some responsibility for engaging in a more active way going forward and looking for creative ways to establish a dialogue and negotiation that leads to results. We said the same things to everybody we talked to but at the end of the day it’s up to Bahrainis to find the path to the future.

QUESTION: Inaudible

ANSWER: As I said at the beginning, this is for Bahrainis to do. We’re a friend of the government and the people. We want to see this society succeed; it’s really important to us. So I’m here to talk to the government, talk to the various political societies and civil society to encourage what Bahrainis need going forward. We’re not going to set the terms, we’re not going to direct it. It’s really up to the people of Bahrain to chart their own destiny. Thank you.

Bahraini Lawyer’s Rights to Privacy Violated; Bahrain Coordinating Committee Pledges Its Support

In response to reports, The DC-based Bahrain Coordinating Committee strongly condemns sensitive and personal content posted on the Bahrain Forum, a pro-government Bahraini online discussion forum.

Allegedly, a video file was posted online that contained images of the prominent Bahraini human rights lawyer, Mohammed al-Tajer.  The images depicted him in his bedroom with his wife.

In the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report (section 1261.b), it was reported that Tajer was threatened with humiliation by government forces who had arrested him and detained him for several months for making a speech during the Bahraini protests in February 2011. While detained, Tajer was abused in prison, and in the course of interrogation was informed that he had been videotaped sleeping with his wife and was threatened that this tape would be made public.

The Bahrain Coordinating Committee condemns all acts of torture and humiliation, and calls on the government and its agents to treat political dissidents and other Bahrainis with respect and humanity, as they seek to obtain the rights to free expression, and other basic human rights.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights’ Report on the proceedings of Bahrain’s Second Cycle UPR session

Press release from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights

25 May 2012

(London/Geneva) – UN member states expressed strong concerns over Bahrain’s human rights record during the second cycle of their Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva on Tuesday. States issued a total of 176 recommendations, which is a marked improvement from the 9 recommendations issued by states when Bahrain was the first state chosen for review in the first cycle in 2008. This indicates that states are taking the UPR process more seriously and know they cannot let Bahrain’s human rights abuses pass without censure.

Many member states expressed strong concerns regarding the lack of progress made towards realizing the recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). These recommendations were submitted to the King in November 2011 in a report which confirmed that the regime committed serious human rights violations during their efforts to suppress pro-democracy protests since February 2011. The regime in Bahrain insists that the recommendations in the report have been accepted, but that their implementation will take time; many member states expressed the opinion that this progress is too slow or all together lacking.

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) called the opening statement by Bahrain’s delegation ‘bemusing’, saying that Bahrain’s Human Rights minister “spoke vaguely yet optimistically of Bahrain’s ‘culture of respect’ for human rights” while avoiding specific mention of last year’s protests beyond references to ‘unfortunate events’. The conflicting narratives of the Bahrain regime and international human rights bodies was in evidence throughout the session and in the way it was reported, with an article by the state-owned Gulf Daily News titled ‘Bahrain Defends Rights Success’.

Four years of failure

Bahrain began by thanking the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for its technical and financial support for the implementation of the last UPR recommendations, for which it was given $1.4 million and which resulted in the creation of a Government controlled human rights group and a few training sessions. The majority of the previous recommendations were never implemented.

Bahrain did not mention the fact of its failure to implement the 2008 recommendations but stated that it had begun a national human rights education plan to ‘encourage a human rights culture’. Looking at the 2008 recommendations, it can be seen that this was not one of the suggestions at the time. The delegation then attempted to pretend that the creation of the Supreme Council for Women in Bahrain was a way of furthering the role of women in society, when in fact it is used by the regime to give political jobs to female members of the royal family. The women’s rights activist Ghada Jamsheer was banned from appearing on national media in 2007 when she dared to criticize the Supreme Council for Women for not taking any steps towards implementing a family law on citizenship, a recommendation from 2008 which still has not been achieved[1]. The Council for Women is said to be studying the recommendation to remove reservations from the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which was another recommendation from 2008 that is not yet implemented.

Bahrain has not confirmed any visits from UN Special Rapporteurs. The Government has earlier postponed the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Torture days before it was planned to take place. So far no new date for the visit has been set.

The 2011 Uprising

Far from admitting failures in the handling of last year’s crisis, Bahrain’s delegation stated that the events “enabled Bahrain to realize significant human rights reforms and achievements in favor of citizens.”[2]

The delegation then made a number of statements which are entirely misleading as per reports from victims and international NGOs. They said that ‘trials of the aftermath’s events were conducted before the civil courts in compliance with international standards. Each prosecuted person is allowed access to a lawyer. A lawyer is also appointed for each person accused in a criminal case who has no lawyer of his own. The court provides the accused person with all guarantees which enable him/her to defend himself/herself. All court trials are held in public’, and also that ‘charges related to freedom of expression and opinion have been dropped’.

Trial observers have repeatedly questioned the independence of trial judges, the lack of access of prisoners to their lawyers and the necessary provisions to properly defend themselves. Many charges related to freedom of association are ongoing or new, and prominent activists like BCHR’s President Nabeel Rajab are being sentenced for crimes related to freedom of expression.

ISHR noted that “Throughout the review, the Bahraini delegation tried to direct attention to the future when questioned about human rights violations related to the protests, defeating the regularly reiterated commitment of States to a ‘frank and productive dialogue’.”[3]

Recommendations

The Bahrain government engaged to some extent with recommendations which dealt with the rights of women, children and migrant workers, but delegates were dismissive of those relating to freedom of expression, torture, freedom of the media and retrials for civilians convicted in military courts. ISHR referred to a worrying trend of deflecting responsibility from the government for these problems, and seemed to believe that setting up the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry was enough to absolve the regime from responsibility for their actions.

Some of these deflections of responsibility looked disingenuous, as when the delegation dismissed the call from Denmark, the US and other delegations for the release of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja for medical treatment by saying that they could not interfere with the ‘perfect independence’ of the judicial system. The Bahraini delegation reiterated the government line that there are no political prisoners in Bahrain.

Bahrain’s delegation also dismissed criticism of the draft press law, a recommendation from 2008, which Japan claimed would be even more restrictive than the last one. Despite Bahrain’s ambassador to the UK, Ms Alice Samaan stating in November 2011 that state owned BTV should be reformed due to its clear government bias and inflammatory anti-protest rhetoric, independent media in Bahrain are reporting that they face continual threats and obstructions. A recent report in the Financial Times notes that the editor of Bahrain’s only independent newspaper feels that BTV is hardening its anti-protest rhetoric and aiming veiled threats at his newspaper.

Bahrain’s human rights minister even went so far as to claim that ‘there were no restrictions on journalists’ in Bahrain, stating that many had entered Bahrain in the last year. However there are many recorded incidents of foreign journalists being arrested and deported (A team from the UK’s Channel 4 during the Formula 1 event) and even tortured (France 24 journalist Nazeeha Saeed). Finally the delegation made the startling claim that ‘Since 2002, no journalist has ever been detained’.

The US, Germany, Denmark and others expressed their opinion that the implementation of the BICI recommendations had been insufficient and little progress had been made on the most important provisions. Other Arab states like Egypt and Jordan also called for the full implementation of BICI.

However, Bahrain’s participation in the UPR and ‘implementation’ of the previous UPR recommendations was commended by such notable human rights violators as China, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, and other countries of the Arab bloc.

Conclusion

BCHR is pleased at the number and strength of the recommendations to Bahrain in the second cycle of its UPR. Recommendations to accede to OPCAT, the ICC, Optional Protocols to the ICCPR and the Convention on Protection from Enforced Disappearances, as well as the incorporation of the provisions of the ICCPR into domestic law are a positive step from the international community in holding Bahrain to account. Bahrain was also encouraged again to invite the Special Procedures and to abolish the death penalty.

However, BCHR has worryingly learned that Bahrain does not intend to either accept or reject the long list of recommendations proposed. Instead, it will take them all into consideration. This is precisely what Bahrain said to the recommendation to invite special rapporteurs in 2008, which means that Bahrain intends to stall for time, pretend that processes are in place in order to review and make more recommendations, and in the end nothing will be done. Bahrain’s government is institutionally corrupt and those who hold the reins of power will never accept the kind of deep reforms that Western states want to see. Bahrain has become accomplished at putting on a smile and pretending that everything is fine, but Bahrainis have been waiting since 1975 for a government based on a fair and non-discriminatory constitution. By denying its people even the most basic reforms, it risks a loss of faith in the political process to produce change and an increase in violence.

BCHR encourages the international community to keep its attention fixed on the actions of the Bahraini regime. BCHR remains a banned organization in Bahrain with a number of its leading members currently in jail, yet we will remain vigilant in our reporting of the crisis in Bahrain and call on governments and NGOs to stand with us to protect the rights of Bahrainis and bring the weight of public opinion to bear on the Bahraini government.

During the Council Session for the adoption of the Report, the President of the Human Rights Council, Laura Dupuy Lasserre, has boldly and courageously asked Bahrain to commit as a government not to harass or abuse any of the members of the opposition, the NGO members or activists present at the UPR session upon their return to Bahrain. She pointed to several articles that were written by several pro-government media outlets defaming and calling for action against those members and activists from NGOs and political societies attending the UPR and organizing side events. The BCHR would like to take this opportunity to commend and thank the President of the Human Rights Council for her courageous stance.

Contact:
For general comments or inquiries about the BCHR, please email: info@ bahrainrights.org.

Further questions may be directed to:
Maryam Al-Khawaja, Acting President:
maryam.alkhawaja@bahrainrights.org
Tel: +4581757959

For documents from the UN relating to the Universal Periodic Review Second Cycle for Bahrain, see:
ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR

U.S. to proceed with sale of arms to Bahrain despite ongoing violations

US PRESSES AHEAD WITH ARMS SALE DESPITE ONGOING VIOLATIONS

No Investigation into Past Misuse of US-origin Helicopters, Armored Vehicles, and Rifles

[Manama] On 11 May 2012, the US State Department announced it would proceed with an arms sale to Bahrain.  The sale is reported to include patrol boats, air defense systems, fighter jet parts, and night-vision equipment.  The sale also includes refurbishment for Bahrain’s fleet of Cobra helicopters.  The Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) opened fired on protesters from Cobra helicopters last year.

Arms sales to Bahrain’s Government are problematic, as the Government has failed to address continuing human rights violations and implement promised reforms.  Bahrain Watch’s Government Inaction project details the Government’s continuing noncompliance with most of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

Bahrain Watch has also documented the deployment and use of various US-origin weapons over the past year by both the police and BDF.  US law limits the permitted uses of certain US-origin weapons, and requires that buyers submit to investigation, including on-site inspection, to verify compliance.  Bahrain Watch believes that misuse of US-origin weapons in Bahrain may have been responsible for at least three deaths and numerous injuries.  The US Government has not announced any investigation or on-site inspection relating to the misuse of US-origin weapons in Bahrain.

Details are included below about US-origin weapons that were deployed or used against protesters in possible violation of their permitted uses.  Given the evidence presented, Bahrain Watch believes that the US Government should conduct an investigation to understand whether Bahrain has broken its obligations to the US before continuing with any arms sale.

Bell AH-1 Cobra Helicopters

The New York Times reported that the BDF opened fire on protesters from helicopters made by US company Bell Helicopter last year.  New York Times journalist Michael Slackman and his cameraman also came under helicopter fire while reporting near the Pearl Roundabout last February.  The US Government granted a number of Bell AH-1 helicopters to Bahrain between 1994 and 2005.  The helicopters were granted at little or no cost to Bahrain under the DoD’s Excess Defense Articles program using 22 USC § 2314 grant authority (22 USC § 2314 is also known as Section 505 of the Foreign Assistance Act).

According to 22 USC § 2314 (d) and 22 USC § 2032, any weapons transferred under this grant authority may only be used for “internal security,” “legitimate self defense,” or peacekeeping and economic purposes consistent with the charter of the United Nations.  As a condition of receiving the helicopters, Bahrain had to agree to permit future US investigation, including on-site inspection, to verify compliance with this regulation.

In this case, the DoD’s Golden Sentry program is empowered to conduct such an investigation, including an on-site inspection known as an “End Use Monitoring investigation visit.”  As explained in a DoD policy memo, End Use Monitoring investigation visits may be “prompted by intelligence reports and/or other sources that indicate a host nation may be using U.S.-origin defense articles and services in ways that do not comply with U.S. laws and policies.”

M113 Armored Personnel Carriers

Bahrain Watch has determined that the BDF deployed a large number of M113 armored personnel carriers around Bahrain between 17 and 18 February 2011, and during the State of National Safety between 15 March and 1 June 2011.  The standard weapon fitted on the M113 is the .50 caliber M2 Browning machine gun.  The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) notes that typical BDF deployments around Bahrain during both periods included armored vehicles equipped with “.50 [caliber M2] Browning machineguns [sic]” (BICI 250, 252, 1101).  Video footage of several BDF deployments during these periods shows that BDF units’ armor consisted exclusively or almost entirely of M113 vehicles.

According to a review of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Arms Transfer Database, the United States is the sole supplier of M113 vehicles to Bahrain.  The US Government granted the vehicles to Bahrain at little or no cost using the same process as for the Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopters.  Bahrain took delivery of the M113s between 1991-1993 (about 115 vehicles), again in 2001 (19 vehicles), and finally in 2008 (100 vehicles).  Note that the Netherlands supplied Bahrain with similarly-named “M113 C&R” vehicles, which are substantially dissimilar to the M113.

According to the BICI report, at least 3 deaths (Bahiya Alaradi, Stephen Abraham, and Jawad Shamlan) are attributed to.50 caliber bullets fired by the BDF from M2 Browning machine guns mounted on armored vehicles (BICI 548, 953, 1021, 1045).  Two of these deaths (Bahiya Alaradi and Stephen Abraham) occurred near the area known as “Burgerland Roundabout” on 16 March 2011.  The BICI report determined that a single BDF unit was responsible for both deaths (BICI 1020).  There is extensive protester video footage of the Burgerland Roundabout area, hours before the two deaths.  Highlights of the footage include:

  1. A video that shows at least four M113 armored vehicles and a tank in the area.  Two of the M113s are located below a flyover, and identifying markings are legible on these vehicles.  The identifying markings on two M113s positioned atop the flyover are illegible.
  2. A video that shows BDF personnel firing 3 shots at protesters from the weapon mounted on an M113 with a legible identifying marking.  The protesters are standing a few meters from where Bahiya Alaradi’s car was found the following day.  Her car was pictured facing the wrong way on the road with a single bullet hole in each of the front and rear windows.
  3. A video that shows BDF personnel firing several volleys from what sounds like a machine gun.
  4. A video that shows bullet holes in the windows of nearby buildings.

Additionally, Bahrain Watch has determined that at least one M113 was at the site of the 18 February 2011 shooting of unarmed protesters approaching the Pearl Roundabout.  BDF investigations of this incident revealed that troops opened fire from various weapons, including .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns mounted on armored vehicles (BICI 252).  One protester (Abdulredha Buhamaid) was killed by the BDF in this incident, and several others were injured.

The DoD’s Golden Sentry program is empowered to conduct an End Use Monitoring investigation visit to determine whether Bahrain misused its US-origin M113 armored personnel carriers.

M4 Rifles

Bahrain’s riot police were spotted carrying what appear to be M4 rifles during the State of National Safety last year.  According to the BICI report, up to three protesters died of non-shotgun gunshots at the hands of the police (BICI 862, 863), although no further information is available on the type of guns used.

The United States sold M4A1 rifles to Bahrain as part of a 2008 package.  The M4A1 rifles were sold to to Bahrain under the Foreign Military Sales program rather than transferred using grant authority.  However, the DoD’s Golden Sentry program is still empowered to conduct an End Use Monitoring investigation visit to determine whether Bahrain misused its US-origin M4 rifles.

M16 Rifles

Both government and protester video footage shows the BDF firing from what appear to be M16 rifles.  The BICI report concluded that typical BDF deployments featured soldiers equipped with M16 rifles (BICI 1101).  Further, BDF investigations revealed that the BDF opened fire with M16s during the 18 February 2011 shooting of unarmed protesters approaching the Pearl Roundabout (BICI 252).

The M16 rifle is manufactured both inside and outside the US.  Bahrain Watch has no information on which country supplied Bahrain with its stock of M16 rifles.

Footage of the BDF using M16 rifles includes:

  1. Two videos from Burgerland Roundabout that show BDF personnel firing several shots from what appear to be M16 rifles in semi-automatic mode on 16 March 2011.
  2. Government footage from the 18 February 2011 shooting of unarmed protesters heading toward the Pearl Roundabout that shows a BDF soldier apparently firing into the air with what appears to be an M16 rifle.
  3. A video that shows an individual sustaining a gunshot to the leg on 16 March 2011.  The author of the video told Bahrain Watch that the individual seen in the video was shot from close range by a BDF soldier who knelt and fired a single round from a rifle described as similar to an M16.

Tear Gas

Bahrain’s police use an assortment of tear gas, including CS gas from US manufacturers Defense Technology and NonLethal Technologies.  Physicians for Human Rights believes that up to 34 people may have died in Bahrain from the use of tear gas.  Bahrain Watch has not tracked whether specific canisters manufactured in the US were responsible for any deaths.

US-origin tear gas is sold to Bahrain under the State Department’s Direct Commercial Sales program.  Direct Commercial Sales are handled differently than Foreign Military Sales or grants.  Restrictions on the use of weapons obtained by Direct Commercial Sales may be included in the classified Bahrain-US defense pact.

On or before March 22, 2012, the State Department was required by law to provide a report to the US Congress detailing crowd control items including tear gas shipped from the US to a number of countries that may include Bahrain.  Another report is due in September.  This was a special provision inserted into the FY2012 State Department Appropriations Act (Public Law 112-74).  Bahrain Watch has so far been unable to obtain this report.

Bahrain Watch is a monitoring and advocacy group that seeks to promote effective, accountable, and transparent governance in Bahrain through research and evidence-based activism.  About Bahrain Watch: http://bahrainwatch.org/about.html

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Contact: bill@bahrainwatch.org
Twitter: @bhwatch

Statement by the White House Press Secretary on the Situation in Bahrain

The White House: Statement by the Press Secretary on the Situation in Bahrain (April 11, 2012)
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney

The United States continues to be deeply concerned about the situation in Bahrain, and we urge all parties to reject violence in all its forms. We condemn the violence directed against police and government institutions, including recent incidents that have resulted in serious injuries to police officers. We also call on the police to exercise maximum restraint, and condemn the use of excessive force and indiscriminate use of tear gas against protestors, which has resulted in civilian casualties.

We continue to underscore, both to the government and citizens of Bahrain, the importance of working together to address the underlying causes of mistrust and to promote reconciliation. In this respect, we note our continued concern for the well-being of jailed activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and call on the Government of Bahrain to consider urgently all available options to resolve his case. More broadly, we urge the government to redouble its ongoing efforts to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, and renew our call for the government, opposition parties, and all segments of Bahraini society to engage in a genuine dialogue leading to meaningful reforms that address the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis.