Members of Congress to Obama: Records of Bahrain & Saudi Repression Can Only Damage Our Enduring Regional Interests
2015-05-15 - 11:52 م
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): 45 Members of Congress sent a letter to the US President Barack Obama on Tuesday (May 12,2015), urging him to stand up for human rights in his meetings this week with leaders from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait, which make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Amnesty International USA and a diverse range of organizations worked to build support for the effort.
They opened the letter by saying: "As Members of Congress and strong supporters of a mutually beneficial relationship with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and in light of your upcoming meetings with the GCC heads of state, we write to express our deep and continuing concern regarding the suppression of civil, political and religious rights within these countries."
The Members of the Congress stressed that although the United States foreign policy should seek the promotion of the core values essential to defending its national interests and strengthening the security of its allies, its GCC partners, however, have in place laws, policies and practices that limit the exercise of universal rights. They also pointed out that "the governments of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain both have extended records of internal repression and human rights violations."
"We are concerned that their records of ongoing internal repression can only hinder their future stability and damage our enduring regional interests. We thus urge you to use the opportunity presented by your upcoming meetings on May 13th and 14th to press the GCC heads of state to release prisoners of conscience and implement significant human rights reforms," they further stated, voicing their concerns.
In regard to Bahrain, the 45 Members of Congress devoted a part of the letter to highlight the ongoing human rights violations committed in the gulf kingdom, mainly the acts of torture practiced in prisons across the country: "We continue to receive credible reports of the ongoing use of practices that violate fundamental human rights, including excessive use of force against peaceful activists and government critics, arbitrary detentions and torture."
They also made special mention of the prominent peaceful activists known as the Bahrain 13, arrested in connection to their participation in the 2011 protests calling for democratic reforms, who still remain in prison, stating that "credible human rights observers have documented the torture, ill-treatment and denial of necessary medical care suffered by the 13, who include human rights defenders, religious and political leaders, medical professionals and teachers."
"In protest of the severe conditions, one of them, Professor Abduljalil al-Singace, who is serving a life sentence, began a hunger strike on April 21st. Another widely-reported case is that of Nabeel Rajab, arrested on April 2 for posting information on the use of torture in Jaw Prison. His detention has again been extended," they added.
Furthermore, the congressmen further stressed: "In both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia authorities often discriminate against or deny members of disenfranchised populations equal access to government services and positions. Unemployment remains high in regions along the peripheries of both nations," declaring that "unresolved domestic grievances within disenfranchised communities in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia affect the broader region's climate of conflict and prospects for reconciliation."
Closing their letter, the Members of the Congress reiterated that "sustainable solutions to these regional challenges require that our allies respect fundamental human rights within their own borders," urging Obama to leverage his "strong relationships with King Hamad Bin Isa al- Khalifa, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and other GCC leaders to encourage reforms, such as:
· The immediate release of all prisoners of conscience;
· The ending of undue restrictions on the operation of civil society groups and religious minorities;
· The comprehensive review and reform of all laws that violate the civil, political, and economic rights of citizens and residents; and
· The reform of discriminatory economic practices and the opening of public sector positions to all qualified members of society."
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