A bipartisan group of US senators has called upon State Secretary Antony Blinken to press Bahrain to end what it calls “violent and systematic repression” of the Bahraini population. Since 2011, when a democratic uprising challenged the rule of Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the monarchy has detained, allegedly tortured journalists, activists and protesters, according to various rights groups. In the letter, the seven senators said that continuous repression could “breed resentment and instability” and ultimately jeopardise the lives of US troops and citizens in Bahrain.
Pointing out various atrocities being meted out to the Bahraini people, the American lawmakers said that the US State Department has been reporting “serious and ongoing human rights abuses” for years. The list encompasses arbitrary detention, torture, cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners, restrictions on freedom of the press, interference with peaceful assembly, and restrictions on political participation and religious practice.
“We write to raise our concerns about the government of Bahrain’s troubling rights record and to better understand your administration’s strategy for pressing this issue with our important ally and partner,” a group of seven influential US senators wrote. “We believe American officials must be willing to speak hard truths when friends and partners lose their way and appreciate that you have spoken of putting human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy,” they added.
Bahrain, a small island state in the middle east, has often come under scrutiny for its authoritarian rule under King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and its “zero-tolerance” policy towards pro-democratic protests. Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch along with London based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) released a joint statement stating the torturous treatment that was meted out to children as young as 11 years of age. As per their report, nearly 13 children aged between 11 and 17 years were arrested in early to mid-February as authorities tried to dissuade protesters from gathering later in the month. Furthermore, they cited five children, all detained mid-February, stating that police officials not only beat and assaulted them but also threatened to give them electric shocks from the car battery. Additionally, another official reportedly hit a 13-year-old and threatened to rape him.