Bahrain Continues to Delay Human Rights Investigations
Bahrain promised to grant Amnesty International additional visas for a fact-finding mission but will not allow the rights group to remain during weekends when clashes typically escalate. The visas would last no more than five days, whereas visas for Formula 1 race ticket holders last two weeks. Amnesty International cancelled a planned trip to Bahrain when representatives were informed of the new rules limiting them to five-day trips on visas that must be arranged through a Bahraini sponsor. ”Amnesty has chosen to put its objections to Bahrain’s visa regulations before its work to promote and protect human rights,” read a statement issued by the Bahraini government. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, a regional Amnesty deputy director, said, “Regrettably we have cancelled the fact-finding visit to Bahrain … as the new five-day limit imposed by the Bahraini authorities for visits by international human rights organisations is a serious impediment.” Juan Mendez, a human rights investigator from the U.N. reported that he was asked to delay his scheduled March 8 to 17 trip until July. The government once again said it needed time to implement more changes so that Mendez could observe the progress that has been made.
Human Rights First wrote a letter (signed by Brian Dooley and observers from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Physicians for Human Rights) urging the King of Bahrain to lift the visa restrictions from human rights organizations. “We must object to the conditions placed on our visits, in particular the extremely short timeframe. The five-business-day limit appears to be arbitrary and will greatly impede our ability to monitor and research human rights developments,” it read.
In other news, Bahrain has once again delayed the trial of the medics who were arrested last March and April and were given long-term sentences in prison. The trial has been delayed til April 30th. “It’s very clear they just want to drag this on to infinity,” Dr. Fatima Haji said. “They failed to bring their witnesses, failed to get whatever information they needed about duty [rotations] from last year…It was just a copy and paste from the last three or four court hearings.”