US rights group calls for ‘free and fair’ elections in Bahrain | Human Rights News

The Bahraini-American rights organization says the Gulf country is heading for another “mock” vote in November.

A Bahraini-American rights group has called on Bahrain to release political prisoners and allow independent observers to observe the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections to avoid a repeat of what it called a “mock” vote in 2018.

In a statement released Wednesday, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) also urged Manama to remove restrictions on free speech and refrain from imposing political conditions on who can run for office in Bahrain. November.

“Conditions in Bahrain at present make free and fair elections impossible,” Husain Abdulla, the group’s executive director, said in the statement.

“Unless conditions improve quickly, the 2022 elections will again be a sham perpetrated by the Bahraini government on the Bahraini people and any facade of democracy in Bahrain will come to an end.”

The call came two weeks after US President Joe Biden signed into law a funding bill accompanied by a statement (PDF) calling on the State Department to produce a report detailing “US efforts on behalf of prisoners.” policies in Bahrain and the government of Bahrain’s response”.

“The congressional-mandated report is part of a broader effort to encourage the U.S. State Department and other leading democracies to deliver on the promises and rhetoric of the Biden administration’s Democracy Summit and to put pressure on undemocratic regimes like the government of Bahrain,” Abdulla said.

“If the 2022 election is as unfair as the 2018 election, the United States must begin to move away from Bahrain and seek partners in the Middle East who share American values.”

Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy in which the king acts as head of state and the parliament enjoys limited legislative powers. Elections are held every four years to determine the 40-member Council of Representatives – the lower house of parliament. Forty members of the Shura Council, the other legislative body, are appointed by royal decree.

Activists and members of banned opposition parties had boycotted the 2018 election, calling it a “farce”. Amnesty International warned ahead of the latest elections in Bahrain that “political opposition has been effectively suppressed over the past two years, with a disproportionate impact on Shia political, civic and religious leaders”.

In its most recent Global Human Rights Report, the State Department last year documented “significant” human rights issues in Bahrain, including torture, arbitrary detention, political prisoners, restrictions on freedom of expression and substantial interference with the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

Yet despite its promise to center human rights in US foreign policy, the Biden administration has not pressured Bahrain — at least publicly — to improve its human rights record.

US officials have praised the Bahraini government and other Arab countries for normalizing relations with Israel.

During a visit to Israel last week, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met jointly with Israeli officials and senior diplomats from countries that have normalized relations with Israel.

“We are fully committed to expanding cooperation through the Abraham Accords and building on the remarkable progress that Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco have made in such a short time,” Blinken said. Sunday.

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