8 December 2016
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
This month, U.S. officials will participate in your administration’s final Manama Dialogue to discuss security challenges facing the Middle East and North Africa. In Bahrain, systematic repression of human rights has only served to erode domestic stability and regional security. We urge you to seize this critical and final opportunity to publicly address the United States’ key concerns regarding human rights and stability in Bahrain.
In May 2011, following the violent suppression of the pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain, you stated: “The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.”
Yet, major political opposition societies have been silenced by the Bahraini government and almost all major political opposition leaders are in prison. Secretary-General Sheikh Ali Salman of the largest opposition society, Al Wefaq, is currently sentenced to four years in prison for giving peaceful speeches. The government has since dissolved Al Wefaq, a move that your administration has cited as “not consistent with [Bahrain’s] commitment to… pursuing unfulfilled reforms.” Another political prisoner of conscience, Fadhel Abbas Mahdi Mohamed, former leader of the Al Wahdawi opposition society, has been sentenced to three years in prison for his society’s peaceful criticism of the war in Yemen. Additionally, the government has recently put an arbitrary travel ban on Radhi al-Musawi, the current Secretary General of another major opposition society, Wa’ad National Democratic Action Society.
Bahraini authorities have also attempted to silence civil society. Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and a prominent human rights defender, has been arrested for critical tweets and now faces charges that could lead to 15 years in prison. Ghada Jamsheer, president of the Women’s Petition Committee, is also in jail for tweeting about corruption. Bahrain recently began targeting human rights lawyers like Mohamed al-Tajer with criminal charges in relation to peaceful expression. In addition, the Bahraini government has targeted a number of Shia religious clerics and, more broadly, placed travel bans on a wide number of civil society activists, including medics, journalists, lawyers, unionists, and human rights advocates working in non-governmental organizations.
Mr. President, as your administration comes to a close, we urge you to use this year’s Manama Dialogue to publicly and privately recognize the role of recent heightened repression in undermining US and regional security. We call on the Government of Bahrain to urgently reverse course and fully implement the reforms it committed to in 2011 in line with international human rights standards.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Amnesty International USA
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)
Human Rights First (HRF)
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)