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ACFBahrain: Statement on Human Rights Violations in Bahrain

April 6, 2011

[Statement released March 30, 2011]

The American Council for Freedom in Bahrain (ACFBahrain) condemns the excessive use of force against pro-democracy protestors, the effective denial of medical care, and the arbitrary arrests of numerous protestors, human rights activists and medical/health professionals in Bahrain that have already resulted in several deaths and hundreds of injured. We support an open dialogue between the Government of Bahrain and opposition members, as promised by the Government in February 2011. However, genuine dialogue is impossible in the face of continued violence.

In 2006, Bahrain was appropriately applauded for ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Bahrain’s declaration of martial law under Article 36b of the Constitution does not override its obligation to respect fundamental human rights under international law. During a publicly declared state of emergency, the ICCPR permits a state to impose restrictions on certain rights that ‘threaten the life of the nation’; however, those restrictions must be ‘limited to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.’ The Government of Bahrain must uphold the basic human rights set out in the ICCPR—a state of emergency is no justification for arbitrary deprivation of human rights, including the right to life, the right not to be tortured or ill-treated, and the right to a fair trail with the presumption of innocence.  In addition, at minimum, administrative detainees under a lawful state of emergency have the right to be promptly brought before a judicial authority, to be informed of the reasons for detention, to have immediate access to both legal counsel and family, and to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in a fair hearing.

Bahrain-based members of ACFBahrain collaborating entities, international human rights bodies and independent experts continue to report the excessive use of force by Bahraini military and GCC security forces, arbitrary detentions, the harassment and intimidation of health professionals, and the effective denial of medical care for the injured.  The ACFBahrain supports an immediate, independent, transparent and thorough investigation of all human rights violations in Bahrain to bring to justice those found responsible for these serious violations of human rights.   Protestors in Bahrain are entitled to peacefully demonstrate without the use of lethal or other excessive forces and disproportionate responses by security forces, as have occurred since February. Doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health and medical workers must able to fulfill without discrimination their professional responsibilities to provide emergency and other medical care to those who have sustained injuries, and to document and report on their injuries, without interference or fear of reprisal. There must be an impartial investigation by Bahraini authorities into targeting of injured protestors for harassment and detention, the destruction of patient information and their forced removal from Salmaniya Hospital, assaults on health and medical workers and the restrictions to the movements of ambulances. Immediate protection is required for all health and medical workers attending the victims of violence in Bahrain and all those with protest-related injuries who are currently being targeted by security and military forces for harassment and isolation in hospitals. Furthermore, the arbitrary detention and disappearance of health and medical professionals, pro-democracy protestors, human rights defenders must be stopped.

In the current climate of protests across the Middle East and North Africa, the ACFBahrain sees no reason to discriminate between peaceful demonstrators: Protestors in Bahrain must be extended the same human rights and freedoms as protestors in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, or Yemen.  The United States must condemn the use of excessive force against unarmed demonstrators and call on all governments in the region to respect the rights of freedom of expression and assembly and to respect the right to health by not interfering with the provisions of medical treatment. The Obama Administration cannot allow strategic alliances and economic ties to determine when and to what extent it will support these fundamental human rights. The United States must recognize that the ammunition used by the Bahraini and GCC forces should not continue to include US ammunition as already documented by American human rights organizations. The misuse of U.S. weapons to commit human rights violations against the civilian population in Bahrain violates not only international law, but also U.S. laws. The U.S. has an obligation to immediately suspend the transfer of weapons, munitions and related equipment to Bahrain that could be used to commit further human rights violations, and to urgently review all arms supplies and training support to Bahrain’s military, security and police forces. American interests will only be enhanced if we work to increase stability in the region by furthering human rights without discrimination. Justice in Bahrain is justice for humanity.

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