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US parliamentary committee calls for release of prisoners of conscience in Bahrain

The Tom Lantos parliamentary committee in the US Congress called on the Khalifa regime to respect human rights charters and release prisoners of conscience in Bahrain.

The committee urged the Khalifa authorities to “respect international laws and conventions related to human rights, and immediately release prisoners of conscience,” eleven years after the outbreak of the February revolution in Bahrain.

The committee referred to the report of the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, which raised its concerns about the continuing and widespread violations of human rights in Bahrain, which included the use of arbitrary detention, violence, official repression, and legal restrictions on freedom of expression, press, and assembly in Bahrain.

It highlighted the ill-treatment and violations that dissidents are subjected to in Bahraini prisons and the continued harassment of them, including prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who has been detained since April 9, 2011, against the background of political issues and expression of opinion, and stressed the need to release him unconditionally.

The Bahraini authorities demanded the release of academic Dr Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace, who has been detained since March 17, 2011, on defending rights, due to his poor health and fears for his safety and health.

It also confirmed that activist Naji Fateel, who was arrested in May 2013, was tortured and ill-treated in prison for expressing his opinion.

In addition, the US Parliamentary Committee condemned the arrest of the Secretary-General of the opposition Al-Wefaq Society, Ali Salman, and described it as an unjust arrest since December 2014, after he led a protest march in Bahrain to demand reform.

On February 14, 2011, tens of thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets and squares in the country’s cities and towns to protest the grip of the ruling Al Khalifa family and discrimination against the country’s Shiite majority and the arrest of activists and political critics.

The 2011 uprising came 10 years after a 2001 referendum in which citizens voted overwhelmingly for the National Action Charter that promised fundamental democratic reforms, including a popularly elected parliament.

Despite the “honeymoon” after the adoption of the National Action Charter, Bahrain gradually returned to its repressive past due to the tyranny of the ruling regime in Manama.

By 2010 the authorities were detaining prominent opposition activists and closing down opposition organizations. There were frequent reports of torture of detainees.

In the years that followed, the human rights crisis in Bahrain worsened. The authorities demonstrated a zero-tolerance policy for any free and independent political thought and imprisoned, exiled, or intimidated anyone who criticized the government for silencing them.

The day after the outbreak of the revolution, which came within the episodes of the “Arab Spring,” the Bahraini authorities carried out a systematic campaign of revenge, using lethal force to disperse the protests.

Thousands of people have been arrested, and hundreds of public sector employees are suspected of supporting the protesters’ democratic demands.

In its report in November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry confirmed the “existence of an operational plan” to terrorize the demonstrators.

The commission concluded that the lack of accountability had led to a “culture of impunity”.

Many human rights defenders, political activists, opposition leaders and journalists have been unjustly imprisoned since the government cracked down on the 2011 protests.

Human rights organizations have documented that prominent political prisoners have been denied an urgent need for medical care, and in some cases, their lives have been put at risk.

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