US Lawmakers Push for Action on Human Rights in Bahrain

2016-07-01 - 4:47 ص

Bahrain Mirror (Reuters): Seven U.S. senators urged Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday to press Bahrain's government to do more to promote political and social reform, adding to recent concern in Washington over the country's human rights record.

The letter said the United States should be prepared to consider "tangible consequences," including reconsidering arms sales, if a recent crackdown on opposition continues.

"Bahrain's failure to address the legitimate grievances of its citizens has strained the country's social fabric and invited outside actors to take advantage of the deteriorating situation," the six Democratic and one Republican lawmakers said in a letter to Kerry, a former Democratic senator.

"Indeed, we believe the government's harsh crackdown on the political opposition undermines the country's stability and plays into the hands of Iran," they wrote, calling themselves "deeply alarmed."

Bahrain, which hosts the United States' Fifth Fleet and is seen by Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdoms as a strategic bulwark against Iranian influence, drew U.S. and United Nations criticism this month when it moved to strip its top Shi'ite cleric of his citizenship and closed the main Shi'ite opposition group al-Wefaq.

A State Department report this month, first reported by Reuters, found that Bahrain's efforts to build national reconciliation after it crushed street protests in 2011 have stalled, and said the Western ally in the Gulf has not implemented recommendations to protect freedom of expression, including nonviolent dissent.

This week, a State Department spokeswoman said Bahrain's plan to try an activist for tweets condemning the Gulf Arab kingdom's prison system and involvement in the war in Yemen is worrisome to the United States.

The letter was led by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy and also signed by Republican Marco Rubio and Democrats Patrick Leahy, Ron Wyden, Bob Casey, Chris Coons and Tim Kaine.

The letter asked for more information on specific actions President Barack Obama's administration is taking to press Bahrain's leadership on the issue.

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