I welcome the opportunity to be here to renew discussions on issues of mutual interest and importance to the United States and Bahrain. While here, I have had meetings with a number of senior officials of the government, and with representatives of civil society organizations, political societies, and trade unions, as well as lawyers, journalists and medical professionals. I also attended the Manama Dialogue. These discussions were open, honest and constructive. Bahrain is an important partner, ally and friend of the United States. We have a shared interest in promoting genuine long-term security based on genuine reform and engagement that involves all elements of Bahraini society.
I welcome the call for dialogue by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, and encourage all political societies and civil society to engage with the Government of Bahrain. We also acknowledge the positive response of Al Wifaq and a coalition of other opposition societies to the Crown Prince’s call for dialogue, and their reaffirmation of the previously-issued Declaration of Non-Violence.
The Government of Bahrain has taken some positive steps to promote the rule of law and human rights, including the BICI Report recommendations to promulgate a police code of conduct, establish an ombudsman’s office to oversee aspects of the law enforcement and criminal justice system, provide prison access to the ICRC, and expand the program of judicial training. The government and many members of Bahraini civil society participated in Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council in September. Recently, a team from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights completed a successful visit to Bahrain, where they met with a wide range of people, both inside and outside of government, as well as current prisoners.
However street violence continues to disrupt daily life, as young demonstrators hurl rocks, Molotov cocktails and metal projectiles at the police. On occasion, they have also detonated IEDs. We condemn this violence unconditionally. Violence never leads to peace or the resolution of political differences. There are also credible reports that in some cases the police are using insufficient restraint and disproportionate force. Police restraint in the use of force will help build greater trust in Bahrain.
To create a climate where dialogue and reconciliation is possible, the government needs to prosecute those officials responsible for the human rights violations that occurred in early 2011. It also should drop charges against all persons accused of offenses involving non-violent political expression and freedom of assembly. Many of these convictions appear to be based, at least in part, on the defendants’ criticisms of government actions and policies. We urge a comprehensive review of all of the medics’ cases in the interest of turning the page on the events of last year and repairing the social fabric of Bahrain. The government also should continue work to professionalize and diversify Bahrain’s security forces so that the police better reflect the communities which they serve. We also are concerned about the recent revocations of citizenship. Advancing these recommendations in an inclusive way will enhance trust and create the space for dialogue and negotiation, as well as encouraging a more constructive media environment.
Bahrain is a valued strategic partner and longtime friend of the United States. The United States’ concern about human rights and reform is rooted in our longstanding partnership with the government and people of Bahrain. Governments that respect rights are more stable strategic allies and partners, and the United States remains committed to supporting all leaders in Bahraini society—government officials, political leaders, and civil society—to take needed steps toward reform that will help realize the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis.