SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - June 14, 2012 Good afternoon and thank you for coming today. This is my fifth visit to Bahrain in the last 18 months. I welcome the opportunity to be here to continue discussions of mutual interest and importance to Bahrain and the United States. Bahrain remains an important partner, ally and friend of the United States.
During my visit, I have met with senior government officials, as well as lawyers, journalists, medical professionals, human rights advocates, and members of several political societies. I have learned much about developments in Bahrain since my last visit in February of this year. My discussions here have been productive, open, lively and reflective of the strong and longstanding relationship between the people and governments of our two countries.
My discussions with a broad cross-section of Bahrainis have focused primarily on the status of - and prospects for – a comprehensive political dialogue in Bahrain, as well as the process of implementing the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). The Government of Bahrain has taken some important first steps in laying the foundation for dialogue and for reconciliation in Bahrain. We are pleased, for instance, to see a great number of workers reinstated in their jobs, students back to school and that the ICRC has been able to gain access to prisons. While the street violence has diminished to some degree, we continue to urge protestors to reject the use of Molotov cocktails and other violent attacks on police. We also urge the police to refrain from the use of excessive force. It is noteworthy that the government has engaged with the ILO in reinstating workers and is compensating the victims of last year’s unrest. These measures signal a commitment to addressing some of the underlying causes of the unrest which is crucial to building trust in Bahrain.
However, much remains to be done. The Government of Bahrain needs to take action on the full range of other BICI recommendations that we believe will help lay the foundation for longer-term reform and reconciliation. This includes prosecuting those officials responsible for the violations identified in the BICI report, dropping charges against all persons accused of offenses involving political expression including freedom of assembly, and ensuring fair and expeditious trials in appeals cases. It also means continuing work to professionalize and diversify Bahrain’s security forces to reflect the communities which they serve. Working to implement the recommendations of the BICI in an inclusive way will enhance trust and create the space for dialogue and negotiation.
Today, an appeals court in Bahrain upheld the convictions of nine medics and acquitted nine others associated with protests last year at the Salmaniya Medical Complex. While sentences were reduced, we are deeply disappointed by these convictions, and that the Bahraini government did not use alternative means to address these cases. As we have said in the past, these convictions appear to be based, at least in part, on the defendants' criticisms of government actions and policies. The defendants are appealing these convictions to the Court of Cassation. We urge an expedited review of these convictions and that the medics be allowed to remain at home pending appeal. We hope that this review will result in a dismissal of criminal charges in the interest of turning the page on the events of last year and repairing the social fabric of Bahrain.
Above all, we continue to call on all parties in Bahrain to help each other move toward a comprehensive political dialogue that includes the diverse views of Bahraini society in a genuine negotiation. Progress toward such a dialogue has slowed, but dialogue has never been more urgent, as polarization in Bahrain society increases and the social fabric becomes more frayed. It will take courage and leadership on all sides to bring Bahrainis of all backgrounds and views to the table. We believe dialogue is needed on two tracks. First, the government should continue to work with opposition political societies on negotiation of the political future of the country. Secondly, there is a need for dialogue on issues of practical importance to all Bahrainis that enhances the sense of all people in Bahrain that they have a stake in the country’s future. We call on the government and others in the society to seek creative and inclusive approaches to dialogue and negotiation. This process will naturally take time. As Bahrain’s friend and partner, the United States of America stands ready to support you.
Source: US Embassy in Bahrain