For the first time, 28 countries, including Mexico, Norway, Costa Rica, France, and Germany, condemned ongoing violations in Bahrain through a joint collective declaration pronounced during a UN Human Rights Council debate. But the United States, the United Kingdom (UK), and seven other European Union (EU) states remained silent.
The cross-regional statement, presented by Switzerland, called for implementing all the recommendations, including the release of political prisoners, of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, appointed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa following street demonstrations in Bahrain early in 2011. The group of states also called upon Bahrain to ensure accountability for those in government who have committed abuses.
“This joint action is an important step as it put the government of Bahrain on notice that the UN Human Rights Council will keep a close watch on the situation in the country,” said Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
However, the US, the UK, and seven other members of the EU (Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Sweden) decided not to support the joint initiative. In spite of continued attacks of largely peaceful protests, the detention of demonstrators and activists, and the use by Bahraini courts of confessions obtained under torture, the US and the United Kingdom decided to remain silent on the gravity of the situation and the lack of engagement of Bahrain with UN human rights mechanisms.
“The United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries that opted for silence today on the abuses committed in Bahrain should make use of the remaining debates of the Human Rights Council to clearly voice their concerns about ongoing violence and detention and trials of peaceful protesters in Bahrain,” Stork said.