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Remarks by Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Melia on the conclusion of his visit to Bahrain (March 16, 2013)

Remarks by Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Melia on the conclusion of his visit to Bahrain

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Thomas O. Melia

March 16, 2013

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit Bahrain to discuss issues of mutual interest and importance to our two countries.  Bahrain has been an important partner and friend of the United States for many years and we remain committed to this country’s security and success.

I would like to echo U.S. Ambassador Krajeski’s recent congratulations to His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, on his appointment as First Deputy Prime Minister.  We welcomed the Crown Prince’s call for dialogue in December 2012 and remain encouraged by the continuation of Bahrain’s National Dialogue.  We view the National Dialogue as a potentially positive step in a broader process that can lead to meaningful reform that meets the aspirations of all Bahrain’s citizens, and we urge those participating to do so in the spirit of consensus building and compromise that is necessary for it to be successful.

During this visit, I have met with senior government officials, as well as representatives of civil society organizations, leaders of political societies, lawyers, and medical professionals and trade union leaders.  I appreciate the hospitality extended to me by those with whom I met, and who were so frank and forthright in our conversations. I welcome the news that the government has extended an invitation to Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to visit in May, and to Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, later in the year. Visits such as these are important to advance mutual understanding, and I was assured that other visitors, including from international human rights organizations and international bodies, would also be welcomed in the near future.

We note that Bahraini authorities have in some cases held security personnel accountable in cases of human rights abuses, including the recent decision of the High Criminal Court to sentence two policemen to ten years in prison for the killing of a detainee in April 2011.  We urge Bahraini authorities to continue to investigate all reports of torture and excess use of force by security officers, as it has pledged to do.  Such measures contribute directly to restoring public confidence in governing institutions, which is vital for Bahrain’s stability.

The Government of Bahrain has also taken steps to promote the rule of law and human rights, including acting on some of the BICI report recommendations.  They promulgated a police code of conduct, established an ombudsman’s office to oversee aspects of law enforcement and the criminal justice system, provided prison access to the ICRC, and expanded programs for judicial training.  We support the Government of Bahrain in its efforts to move forward to implementation of all of these initiatives.

We also encourage Bahrain to enhance its efforts to address important human rights issues.  The government should drop charges against all persons accused of offenses involving non-violent political expression and freedom of assembly. We urge a comprehensive review of all of the medics’ and teachers’ cases, and reconsideration of the revocation of citizenship for 31 Bahrainis, in the interest of turning the page on the events of the last two years and repairing the social fabric of Bahrain. We note that many of those who were dismissed from their jobs in the aftermath of the unrest of early 2011 have been restored to their jobs or comparable positions, or otherwise received compensation. Social peace would be further enhanced by the return to their positions of Bahraini citizens who have been convicted and served their sentences, and especially of those who were acquitted of charges that were brought against them. The government should continue work to professionalize and diversify Bahrain’s security forces. Advancing these recommendations in an inclusive and transparent way will enhance trust and foster the climate necessary for true dialogue and constructive negotiation.

Unfortunately, as we saw firsthand on this visit, street violence continues to disrupt daily life in Bahrain.  We condemn this violence unconditionally and urge all parties to reiterate their commitment to non-violence.

Bahrain is a valued strategic partner and long-time friend of the United States.  We encourage all parties to remain committed to the National Dialogue and to take the needed steps toward reconciliation and reform that will help realize the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis.