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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.

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U.S. State Dept. Statement on Sentencing of 20 Medical Professionals in Bahrain

Bahrain has arrested and detained 20 medical professionals who treated protesters for injuries. It has been reported that these people have been tortured while detained, and that they were subjected to unfair court proceedings.

Read the Bahraini-Medics-press-statement, including names and prison sentences.

Read the Human Rights Watch account and direct observation of security force torture and beatings of doctors, nurses, and patients (excerpt below, bold text is my emphasis)

Human Rights Watch witnessed one incident on March 27 in which security forces forcibly removed a 22-year-old patient from a clinic he had checked into for serious injuries after security forces shot him with a pellet gun. The patient was obviously in great pain, and doctors told Human Rights Watch he needed immediate surgery to remove more than 100 pellets that had penetrated his pelvic area and damaged internal organs. They informed both the patient and his family that they would need to request blood for a transfusion from Salmaniya, and warned that they could not request the blood without divulging the patient’s name, national identity number, and the nature of his injuries.

Approximately an hour-and-a-half later, Human Rights Watch observed about 10 security agents and riot police carrying weapons enter the clinic. One officer told Human Rights Watch that they had come from a local police station to take the patient with them. They forced him out of bed and to his feet. After trying to force him to walk, which the intense pain apparently prevented him from doing, they placed the wounded man in a wheelchair, then put him into an unmarked white sports utility vehicle and drove off with a four-jeep police escort. Human Rights Watch has been unable to obtain information about his subsequent well-being or whereabouts.

On September, 29, 2011, Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC made the following remarks to the press. Last week, Bahrain proceeded with the trials of these medical professionals. Evidently, the September 29, 2011 statement was not strong enough an incentive. It is time for the U.S. to make another statement, and more strongly declare our opposition to the trials, and advocate for the immediate release of these persons.

Here is the September 29, 2011 statement:

We are deeply disturbed by the sentencing today of 20 medical professionals by the National Safety Court in Bahrain. We understand that the cases can be appealed and transferred to a civilian appellate court. We continue to urge the Bahraini Government to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings, including a fair trial, access to attorneys, and verdicts based on credible evidence conducted in full accordance with Bahraini law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations.

We are also concerned about trials of civilians, including medical personnel, in military courts and the fairness of those proceedings. We have repeatedly shared our position regarding Bahrain’s judicial proceedings with the highest levels of the Bahraini Government.

We call on the Government of Bahrain and all citizens to create a climate conducive for reconciliation, meaningful dialogue, and reform that, as President Obama said on September 21, will bring peaceful change that is responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis.

Take Action

Write to U.S. State Department officials and demand an accounting of their activities on behalf of the medical professionals in Bahrain. Call for a stronger response, including a statement declaring the country’s support for these medical professionals.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (use salutation: Dear Madam Secretary:)
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson
Office of the Spokesperson
Bureau of Public Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520