A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has called on Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to press Bahrain to end what it calls “violent, systematic repression” of its population.
A group of seven influential U.S. senators wrote, “We are writing to raise our concerns about Bahrain’s disturbing rights record and to better understand your administration’s strategy for pressing this issue with our key allies and partners.”
International human rights groups have condemned the Gulf state and US military allies after thousands of protesters, journalists and activists were jailed in Saudi Arabia in 2011 after a popular uprising against the monarchy. Since then, political opposition in Bahrain has been banned and the independent media shut down. There have been reports of torture and forced confessions in death sentences, with some political terrorists involved in “terrorism” allegations.
The letter was signed by Democratic Senators Ron Wyden, Patrick Leahy, Barney Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin and Jeff Markley, along with Republican Marco Rubio.
They called on Secretary Blinken to promote “reform and respect for fundamental human rights” in Bahrain.
“We have long been concerned about the situation in Bahrain because Manama is an important ally,” the senators said.
The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is patrolling the Persian Gulf, is based in Bahrain and senators have expressed concern that “violent, systematic repression in Bahrain will create frustration and instability” that could threaten the U.S. presence.
Bahrain is a Shiite-majority country ruled by a Sunni monarchy. U.S. State Department reports have documented human rights abuses in Bahrain for many years.
The letter said Bahrainis have continued to call for agency and accountability, often at great risk to their safety and that of their families.
In July, Amnesty International and 15 other rights groups called on Bahrain to release political prisoner Abdul Jalil al-Singa, who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2011 uprising.
Al-Singas, 59, was a key member of the anti-Shia Haq movement. He went on a hunger strike to protest the misconduct.
The Bahraini government has denied allegations of human rights abuses and denies discriminatory treatment of its Shia citizens. There was no immediate response from the press officer of the Bahraini embassy in Washington DC on the response to the senators’ letter regarding Al Jazeera’s investigation.
Hussein Abdullah, an exile in Bahrain who founded Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, said “Bahrain is a test case” for the Biden administration, which seeks to prioritize human rights at the center of its foreign policy.
“The Bahraini government is a serious, relentless and blatant violator of the rights of its citizens at almost every level,” Abdallah said in a statement on the group’s website, praising the senators’ letter.
.ADHRB With – General forgiveness, rhrw, Ah Bahrain Rights, @UN_SPExperts And @ GulfCentre4HR At the 3rd session of the Human Rights Council, Vivek took part in a side event demanding the immediate release of prisoners. # Bahrain. pic.twitter.com/X96haTA8Oo
– Colossus Diplomacy (ol Colossus Diplo) September 23, 2021
In August, the human rights group called for an independent investigation into the death of Hassan Abdulnabi Mansour, a Bahraini prisoner who died in custody after being denied essential medicines and treatment.
Mansour was the third prisoner in Bahrain since April to die due to medical negligence.
Earlier this month, Bahrain conditionally allowed electronic detainees to conduct electronic monitoring and house arrest under the new rules, Reuters News Service reported, quoting government officials and staff.
Syed Ahmed Al-Wadai, a Bahraini expatriate activist with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, told Reuters that 227 of those released were political prisoners and many were imprisoned when they were minors.
Al-Wadai said, “They will continue to face strict restrictions on their freedom and these rare releases will be overshadowed by the continued imprisonment of hundreds of political prisoners in Bahrain.”