Washington’s new ambassador to Bahrain must prioritize the human rights file
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) has called on the new U.S. ambassador to Bahrain, Stephen Bundy, to place human rights at the centre of the U.S. agenda.
On December 18, 2021, the U.S. Senate confirmed that Stephen C. Bundy would be the next U.S. ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
The human rights organization pointed out that Bahrain is a country that flagrantly violates the rights of its people, according to the U.S. State Department and prominent human rights organizations.
“In the wake of President Biden’s Summit for Democracy, it is time for the United States to stop ignoring it and demand the government of Bahrain to put an immediate end to human rights violations against the Bahraini people,” said Hussain Abdullah, executive director of the organization.
Abdullah added, “The position of Ambassador Bundy from day one should be a means of pressing for immediate and far-reaching improvements in the field of human rights in Bahrain. The human rights situation in Bahrain will be the yardstick to measure his success or failure as an ambassador.”
In September 2021, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators led by Senators Ron Wyden and Marco Rubio wrote to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken calling for a new paradigm in US-Bahrain relations.
“We believe that the United States should place allies at a higher level, just because we are committed to a higher standard,” the organization said. . . We are particularly concerned that the government’s violent and systematic repression will generate resentment and instability and could ultimately threaten the Navy’s Fifth Fleet and the many thousands of Americans who live and work at U.S. facilities in Bahrain.”
“We believe that U.S. officials should be prepared to tell the hard truths when friends and partners lose their way,” she added.
Major human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have drawn up a long list of human rights violations by the Bahrain government, highlighting the need for an active U.S. response.
On December 13, 2021, Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, highlighted the U.S. government’s inaction when he said: “Bahrain’s most prominent dissidents are still trapped after more than a decade in degrading prison conditions, in part because “Bahrain’s powerful allies like the U.S. and U.K. do not speak out about Bahrain’s massive human rights violations.”
Amnesty International has stated that torture in detention centres is common in Bahrain, and there is impunity because the authorities have failed to prosecute the torturers.
The United States has penal laws that can be used to punish these torturers and deter torture in the future, but these laws have not been enforced so far.
“As the top U.S. diplomat in Bahrain and the first ambassador to be sent to Manama by the Biden administration, Ambassador Bundy has an opportunity to turn a new page in US-Bahraini relations by putting human rights high on the agenda,” Abdullah said.
“If the Bahraini government refuses to join the group of civilized countries that respect human rights, the United States should begin a systematic five-year plan to disengage its strategic interests from those of Bahrain,” he added.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain called on Ambassador Bundy to engage the Government of Bahrain on human rights issues upon her arrival in Bahrain with a focus on:
- Immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners in Bahrain, including opposition leader Hassan Mushaima, human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and academic Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace.
- The Government of Bahrain begins a meaningful dialogue with the political opposition on strengthening democratic institutions in Bahrain ahead of the 2022 parliamentary elections.
- Hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations in Bahrain, including senior officials in the Ministry of Interior and the security forces.