At Bahrain Hearing State Department Skipped, Human Rights Groups Urge “Forceful” Action

Friday, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission — an entity within Congress chaired by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) charged with investigating human rights abuses — held a hearing titled “Human Rights in Bahrain,” designed to probe abuses against pro-democracy activists in the Arab monarchy.

Noticeably absent among the witnesses testifying were any representatives from the U.S. government, which has been closely allied with Bahrain throughout the uprising and resulting humanitarian crisis. On the hearing’s website, you can see that both witnesses called from the State Department, William J. Burns and Jeffrey D. Feltman,declined to appear:

McClatchy reports that “scheduling conflicts” are the reason that the two officials did not appear, although no explanation is given why the State Department did not send replacements. “I was expecting at least one, possibly two witnesses from the State Department to testify,” said a disappointed McGovern.

At the hearing, Human Right’s Watch’s Joe Stork stressed the need for a more forceful response from the United States, which has been very mute in reaction to the abuses in the country, an oil-rich monarchy that houses U.S. military forces:

And unfortunately, in contrast to Syria, Libya, and other sites of unrest and repression, the United States government has had little to say about any of this, at least in public, and those few words have tended to be general in the extreme. […]

Quite frankly, at a time when night after night masked armed men, both uniformed and plainclothes, are breaking into homes and hauling off Bahrainis to unknown locations, to interrogation centers where torture or ill-treatment are routine, a time when people are pulled out of cars at checkpoints and beaten, a time when people suffering gunshot or other wounds inflicted by security forces fear going to medical centers where other security forces beat and arrest them – these are times when something more forceful and more specific is badly needed.

The latest outrage in the brutal crackdown in Bahrain involves the demolition of mosques. Dozens of mosques frequented by the oppressed Shiite majority have beenbulldozed and destroyed by the ruling government, including some that were centuries old.