WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 – Officials from Bahrain have issued a scathing response to a letter from twenty Members of Congress recommending UN inspections of alleged torture in Bahrain. Posted on state run media, the letter attacks the twenty US Senators and Congressmen by stating “…we can only wonder if you are adequately acquainted with the facts of the matters you raise in your letter.”
The original letter to Bahraini officials expressed concern over the fact that the government of the small island monarchy had refused Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, entry to the country in order to conduct an investigation on allegations of torture by Bahraini government and security officials.
Bahraini officials criticized representatives from the US Congress and Senate, stating Bahrain’s apparent unwillingness to even consider the letter. The letter reads “The sources for the factual predicates of your letter are, unfortunately, one-sided to such a degree that your prescriptive admonitions are likely to fall on deaf ears of large segments of our people.”
Defending their own practices, the Bahraini parliament members pointed fingers at the White House, stating “… soon after taking his oath of office President Obama (on 16 April 2009) provided assurances of non-prosecution to all US personnel who had engaged in torture,” referring to President Obama’s refusal to prosecute individuals connected to allegations of torture in the previous administration.
Lacking foundation or support in the letter, the Bahraini response decries the Congressional letter’s references to Amnesty International, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Redress, the International Federation for Human Rights, and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, vilifying these organizations and the international media that has reported on torture in Bahrain by stating “[u]nfortunately such agitators, provided that they procure adequate financing to travel the world and provided they have a facility with English, seem able to persuade a gullible international press…”
The letter perpetuates a recent shift in rhetoric towards the United States, wherein the longtime ally has made a series of bizarre accusations, such as when Bahraini government spokeswoman Samira Rajab accused the United States of “totally siding with the terrorists” in response to a State Department report on human rights abuses.
The State Department report in question, released on April 19, 2013, said of Bahrain “the most serious human rights problems included citizens’ inability to change their government peacefully; arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, in some cases leading to their torture in detention” and highlighted “lack of due process in trials of political and human rights activists, medical personnel, teachers, and students, with some resulting in harsh sentences.”
Angrily responding to the Congressional representatives and in defending Bahrain’s permissive attitude on torture, Bahraini officials paradoxically assert they have not gone far enough, “Large segments of our population are incensed at what they see as our Government’s leniency with the sectarian opposition.”
Seemingly uninterested in changing the status quo, the Bahraini letter continues by proclaiming “the pursuit of accountability seems secondary to many of our citizens,” further explaining that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past” despite the allegations of ongoing repression.
The letter was signed by several Bahraini officials, including Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Dhahrani, who serves as the Speaker of the Council of Representatives of Bahrain, ever since receiving a questionable 90% of the vote in a 2002 election. Dhahrani was apparently re-elected a 2010 ballot during which international monitors were barred and allegedly more than a thousand people were prevented from voting.
Meanwhile Mendez has responded to the Bahraini Government’s refusal to allow inspections. “Let me be clear, this was a unilateral decision by the [Bahraini] authorities. Unfortunately, it is not the first time the Government has tried to avoid responsibility for the postponement of my visit, which was originally supposed to take place over a year ago.”
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