Former Bahraini MP Ali Alaswad: John Kerry's Visit to Bahrain Is an Opportunity that Can't be Missed

2016-04-05 - 8:08 م

Ali Alaswad

Bahrain Mirror: After more than 3 years as US Secretary of State, John Kerry is finally due to visit Bahrain for the first time. The trip has the potential to be more than just symbolic and must be used to apply serious pressure on Bahrain to begin the process of reform.

For over 5 years Bahrain has remained in a state of deep crisis, affecting the political, economic and social status of the country. A visit from the world's leading foreign diplomat can help end this crisis, but a failure to succeed will only set Bahrain back further. It is an opportunity that can't be missed and all stakeholders have a serious role to play to make the most of this chance.

What Kerry needs to know:

Bahrain has consistently ignored international calls to release leading opposition leaders, political prisoners and human rights defenders. International governments, NGO's and more have called on Bahrain to respect human rights and move towards a serious political settlement through dialogue. These calls have fallen on deaf ears. Not only has Bahrain refused to release prisoners, it has continued to arrest more, including women, children and the elderly.

Bahrain has failed to implement any of the recommendations of either the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry or the UN's Universal Periodic Review. Bahrain remains an absolute monarchy that shows no respect for human rights, freedom of expression, press or religion, and suffers from corruption, nepotism and a lack of accountability.

What Kerry should do during his visit:

The key to lasting stability is a serious political dialogue, but that needs to be fostered in an atmosphere of confidence and trust. Kerry should use his influence and relations with Bahrain to push for such confidence building measures that includes the release of opposition leaders and political prisoners and the relaxing of restrictions on freedom of expression. As part of his visit Kerry should meet with both the Government and the Opposition equally to help pursue a political settlement.

What the Bahrain Government must do:

The Government must start taking the idea of a political settlement seriously. It must understand that the ongoing crisis is to the benefit of no one and will not be ended by more repressive measures. It should follow the confidence building measures as outlined above and start by releasing the opposition leaders, such as Sheikh Ali Salman and Ibrahim Sharif, who are key to working on a political solution. These leaders should be at the dialogue table and not behind bars.

What the Opposition should do:

The Opposition has an important role to play and must continue to call for political dialogue with the Government. It must also understand the need for a political solution through peaceful means and continue to reject all violent forms of protest as illegitimate. This is the responsibility on the side of the Opposition.

A successful visit

Kerry's long-awaited visit to Bahrain can be successful but a failure to capitalize on this opportunity may set the country back further. The United States regularly states its commitment to principles of universal human rights and democracy. This commitment is tested by the case of Bahrain. To visit the country and fail to discuss these pertinent issues will call into question how serious the US takes the promotion of these values. People over the world want dignity, respect and a say in their future; the people of Bahrain are no different.


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