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Human Rights Watch Testimony at Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing on Human Rights in Bahrain: Next Steps

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Chairman McGovern, Chairman Pitts, members of the Commission, thank you for the invitation to testify on Bahrain. This hearing comes at the end of a week when Bahrain’s most notable human rights defender had an op-ed in the New York Times, only to be charged the next day with “deliberate dissemination of false news and spreading tendentious rumors that undermine the prestige of the state.” In response, the Times ran a stinging editorial which notes that relying “on rulers who have responded to dissent with torture, tear gas, jail cells and travel bans is not a defensible long-term strategy.” 

As you know, the majority of Bahrainis are Shiite but the country is ruled by the Al Khalifa family, a Sunni-dominated autocratic monarchy that has shown a clear aversion to meaningful reform, despite a number of cosmetic initiatives. In 2011, the authorities used lethal force to suppress a largely peaceful pro-democracy movement, which proved to be a turning point and required the government to engage more directly – and publicly – on structural reform. Unfortunately, although King Hamad appointed an independent commission – the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) –  to document human rights violations and dutifully accepted all of its recommendations, he has done little to implement the most substantive ones.

 

Read the full statement here.

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