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Bahrain Asks Human Rights Delegation To Help Build More Open, Democratic Society

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The United Nations human rights office has announced a delegation to Bahrain, where serious rights violations are alleged to have occurred earlier this year.

The delegation, a four-member team, heads to Bahrain next week at the request of the Bahraini Government, according to Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The delegation is to discuss how to build a more open and democratic society in the Middle East country. Bahrain's ruling Monarchy is Sunni, while most of the people are Shia.

"The delegation looks forward to engaging with the Government, civil society, members of the political opposition and victims of human rights violations in the country." - Ms. Shamdasani

Freedom House, reporting on the unrest, says the West, particularly the United States, ignored the crackdown in Bahrain. The United States even signed a multimillion-dollar arms deal with the tiny monarchy, remaining silent over the treatment of the people.

"Rather than responding to the legitimate requests of its citizens, however, the Bahraini state violently attacked demonstrators and those who sought to defend them, eventually calling in foreign reinforcements, including troops from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, UAE police, and mercenaries from Pakistan."
- Freedom House report

In June, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, welcomed Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa to the State Department, to discuss political and economic issues, including reform.

The UN Human Rights team is expected to recommend a way forward for Bahrain, in a report to High Commissioner Navi Pillay. The team is lead by Bacre Ndiaye, Director of the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division at OHCHR, and Frej Fenniche, chief of the office's Middle East and North Africa section.

Commenting on the unrest in Bahrain, a UN story said, "The small island country (Bahrain) was beset by violent clashes between security forces and protesters earlier this year, part of the Arab Spring uprising that has engulfed much of the region and led to the toppling of long-term regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen."

An independent inquiry into alleged rights violations during the clashes found that Government forces used excessive force during the crackdown in February and March. Some people who were detained by the regime, were also tortured.

According to the Freedom House report, more than 1,600 people were arrested by the Bahraini regime. Freedom House says the protestors were peaceful, and included political protesters, medical professionals, journalists, human rights defenders and innocent bystanders.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he, Ms. Pillay and other senior UN officials would study the report.

Freedom House issued five recommendations for U.S. policy.

  • Speak out, speak loud
  • Make the $53 million arms package to the Bahrain Defense Force conditional
  • Be consistent in support for human rights and democratic reform
  • The Obama administration should make internet freedom a priority
  • Support Legal and Security Sector Reform

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