Amid the political convulsions wracking the Middle East, few prolonged protests have been as ignored by the West, particularly the United States, as those in the tiny Gulf monarchy of Bahrain. Despite the regime’s brutality, which has targeted peaceful protesters, human rights activists and medical personnel, the United States recently signed a multimillion-dollar arms deal (currently on hold) with the country and has remained largely silent amid a crackdown that proportionally surpasses the magnitude of any other in the region. Despite the fact that Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and has received the coveted designation of ‘non-NATO ally’, the people of Bahrain have the same right to advocate for democratic change as their counterparts in the region.
On September 29, a Bahrain Special Security Court handed down prison sentences of 5 to 15 years for twenty medical professionals convicted of crimes against the state after they provided medical assistance to injured protesters—the latest in a pattern of ongoing repression in Bahrain. Those convicted have faced inhumane conditions while in custody for the past five months, allegedly tortured and denied access to their family and legal counsel. The court also sentenced Ali AlTaweel to death and Ali Attiya to life in prison for allegedly killing a riot police officer. On September 28, the military court upheld the prison sentences for 21 Bahraini activists, sentencing eight of them to life in prison.
14-year-old Ali Jawad Ahmad was killed during a peaceful demonstration in Bahrain on August 31 when security forces used excessive force and threw a tear gas canister at his head, according to his family and activists. The Interior Ministry claims the canister was not the cause of his death, and there was “no police action” in the area at the time. Yet activists blame security forces and are mourning Ahmad’s death by staging large-scale protests across the country.
Freedom House is writing to express our outrage at the targeting of activists, doctors and journalists and their families. We are deeply concerned by the reports of torture, imprisonment and coercion they have faced over the past few months and urge your government to immediately halt attacks on individuals and investigate quickly allegations of torture.
A majority of Americans see democracy in the U.S. as weak and getting weaker, according to a national survey released by The Democracy Project, a joint initiative of Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
On May 21, 2008, the UN General Assembly will elect 15 new Human Rights Council members. Twenty countries are candidates. Freedom House and UN Watch evaluated each candidate’s suitability for election to the Human Rights Council by examining its record of human rights protection at home and its record of human rights promotion at the UN.
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