Jun 16, 2011

The U.S. has put Bahrain, a Persian Gulf ally, in the company of Iran, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe on its list of human rights violators to be scrutinized by the UN Human Rights Council.

The Bahraini government has arbitrarily detained workers and others perceived as opponents, U.S. Ambassador Eileen Donahoe said in a statement to the council yesterday in Geneva. Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has tried to crush protests that have wracked the country since February, as the Shiite majority population has agitated for the Sunni Muslim monarchy to allow greater economic opportunities and freedoms.

Bahrain's crackdown has put the U.S. in the position of speaking out against a country that is both a close ally and which received security assistance from Saudi Arabia in putting down the protests.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly called on Bahrain to exercise restraint amid reports that it has detained doctors for treating injured protesters. President Barack Obama met with Bahrain’s crown prince last week and praised news that the country will lift the martial law declared in March.

The Bahraini government's recent moves to end some restrictions and to start a national dialogue on reforms are “signs of hope,” Donahoe said.

Her statement also listed Belarus, China, Cuba, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe for council attention because of human rights abuses.

The United States is deeply concerned about violent repression of peaceful protests in some countries around the world, she said in her statement.

About Bahrain she said:

"The Bahraini government has arbitrarily detained medical workers and others perceived as opponents. However, the government’s agreement to welcome a visit by the OHCHR, to end the State of National Safety, and to launch the National Dialogue on reform are signs of hope. We urge the government to follow through on its commitment to ensuring that those responsible for human rights abuses are held accountable."

Official in Bahrain

She delivered the statement in Geneva on the same day that Michael Posner, the State Department's chief human rights representative, spoke about human rights in the Bahraini capital after meeting with government officials. He expressed concern about protesters detained by security forces there.

"We continue to receive reports about some students being expelled from universities and some workers being dismissed merely because they have exercised their political rights,Posner said. “We remain concerned about the continued detention of a number of Bahrainis who have neither been charged nor tried, about the treatment of those people in detention, and about reports that some have been subjected to physical abuse during interrogations."

The Bahraini embassy in Washington, reached by telephone, had no immediate comment.