*This article was originally written and posted online for an undergraduate course on media writing. It was originally published on 27 Nov., 2015.
Human Rights Watch’s latest report on the state of human rights in the Kingdom of Bahrain has triggered some heated debate over the US’ relationship with the Kingdom. The report cites the experiences of 10 detainees, who reportedly endured sexual abuse, torture, and deprivation of basic human rights while in the custody of different branches Bahrain’s Criminal Investigative Directorate. This report comes just five months after the Obama administration’s decision to lift security holds on funding to Bahrain’s National Guard and the Bahrain Defense Force.
Department Spokesperson John Kirby stated in a press release that, “While we do not think that the human rights situation in Bahrain is adequate . . . we believe it is important to recognize that the government of Bahrain has made some meaningful progress on human rights reforms and reconciliation”.
The sanctions were first levied in 2011 following the Bahraini government’s severe crackdown on protesters and opposition leaders. In November of 2011, King Hamad appointed the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate these incidents. The BICI later issued a 500-page report, which documented that its own findings were congruent with accusations of gross human rights abuses. That report spawned the creation of three new agencies, all of which are governed by a mandate to end torture of detainees.
However, according to Human Rights Watch’s November 22 report, these measures have failed to protect protesters and opposition leaders from torture in the years following the BICI report. It is also worth noting that Bahrain has yet to ratify the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture or OPCAT.
“As we have indicated several times before, we remain concerned about human rights in Bahrain and continue to press Bahrain on numerous serious issues, including at senior levels” a spokesperson said when asked if the latest report’s findings concerned the Department of State.
The report outlines a number of suggestions for the government of Bahrain to undertake. Among them are granting the new oversight and investigative agencies greater independence and autonomy from the Ministry of Interior, and creating detailed reports of complaints and actions taken against perpetrators.