Blood in the Street, Injustice in the Courts, Silence from the USJune 8, 2011 • By Christoph Koettl
While Bahraini authorities are silencing activists, opposition leaders and even medical personnel in military courts, the United States Government remains silent. We have seen the US respond to the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, yet government officials so far have remained relatively silent on the crackdown in Bahrain – imposed on the streets and in the courts.
The most recent indications for this silent acceptance of human rights violations include the (rather secret) meetings of high level US government officials with the Bahraini Crown Prince yesterday, and the recent refusal by the State Department to testify before the Congressional Human Rights Commission.
The United States’ failure to act in Bahrain represents a tragic double standard in US Middle East policies. In Obama’s May 19th speech on the Middle East and North Africa, the President won applause for rhetoric admonishing the Bahraini Monarchy’s repression of dissent, stating that “you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.”
Currently, Amnesty has reports of 14 Bahrainis on trial in military court (plus seven in absentia) for organizing and leading recent protests. We believe that many of them are likely to be Prisoners of Conscience.
Beyond Obama’s bold rhetoric, no action from the US has followed, and the unfair trials continue. The newest victims are doctors and nurses, put on trial for helping wounded protesters – and a poet who is on trial for a protest reading!
Also this week, Bahrain security forces face fresh claims of torture and other abuses against medical doctors and nurses who treated injured protesters in February and March. Relatives of the accused have alleged that security officials forced detainees to stand for long periods, deprived them of sleep, beat them with rubber hoses and wooden boards containing nails and made them sign papers while blindfolded. Some were forced to sign false confessions.
Bahrain’s protests began in late February, and since then Bahrain’s conservative Monarchy has temporarily imposed martial law, used excessive force against peaceful protesters and continues to shrink the space for the peaceful expression of opinions. This became clear and palpable during Amnesty International’s most recent fact-finding visit, following an earlier visit in February, and is well documented.
If you are against double standards in the Middle East, join our call to the State Department to speak out more forcefully against unfair trials in Bahrain, and ask them to send trial observers. Please also watch this blog for additional actions over the next days.