Senators call to account for human rights abuses in Bahrain
A bipartisan group of seven prominent US senators, including the Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), on Thursday sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, highlighting the “violence” of the Kingdom of Bahrain. and the âsystemicâ repression of opposition movements and urging to consider sanctions against human rights violators in this country.
“Over the past decade, the State Department and leading human rights defenders have detailed a long list of serious and continuing human rights violations in Bahrain,” the letter read, listing reports of “detention arbitrariness, torture, cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners, restrictions on press freedom, interference in peaceful assembly and restrictions on political participation and religious practice âof the island nation.
Bahrain is the only one of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to have a predominantly Shia Muslim population. However, the ruling Khalifa family and the country’s political elite are Sunni, leading to sectarian tensions. These tensions became particularly apparent after the Arab Spring of 2011, when a Shiite political protest movement was violently suppressed with the help of troops from neighboring Saudi Arabia.
The country is also a major ally of the United States in the Middle East, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet in the heart of the Persian Gulf. The letter underscored the risk that the crackdown could lead to political unrest, which could jeopardize the presence of US forces in Bahrain.
The letter commended Blinken for focusing State Department policies on human rights, but asked him to answer a list of questions regarding past actions by the United States to improve conditions for human rights. man in Bahrain, in particular by raising the question of the oppression of opposition movements with the Bahraini government. It highlighted Naji Fateel and Hasan Mushaima, a couple of Bahraini dissidents who have been in prison since 2007 and 2011 respectively.
The letter also questioned the wisdom of arms sales to the Bahraini government, given its approach to human rights. He tacitly recommended that the US government apply the Global Magnitsky Act to punish human rights abusers in the Bahraini government.
“Bahrainis continue to call for agency and responsibility, often at the risk of their safety and that of their families,” the letter concludes. âWe stand with them in urging you and the Biden-Harris administration to promote reform and respect for basic human rights in Bahrain and greater stability in the region. “
In addition to Sanders and Rubio, the letter was signed by the Speaker of the Senate temporary Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR).
Trevor Filseth is a current affairs and foreign affairs writer for the National interest.