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It has been confirmed that Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is the newest cosponsor of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Accountability Act of 2015. Leahy joins Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on the bill. The legislation seeks to ban the sale of arms to Bahrain until the country complies with the recommendations laid out by the 2011 BICI report. The bans would target small arms, tear gas, Humvees, and “other items that could reasonably be used for crowd control purposes.” A companion bill is currently being proposed in the House of Representatives and is cosponsored by Representatives James McGovern (D-MA), Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA).
Bahrain’s human rights situation has increasingly deteriorated since 2011 when popular, pro-democracy protests began in the country. Since then, the government has often resorted to using tactics involving tear gas and light weapons to disperse protesters. In 2013, the Department of State evaluated the country’s progress on the implementation of the 2011 Commission’s recommendations and it was found that progress had been made on only 5 of the 26 suggestions.
In related news, the House of Representatives released a draft version of the fiscal …
The UN Human Rights Council faces growing criticism for adopting a watered-down resolution addressing reported human rights violations in Yemen. The Netherlands abandoned a resolution which would have looked into possible war crimes perpetrated by both the Houthi rebels and Saudi-led coalition. UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein previously supported a more stringent evaluation of the Saudi role in the Yemeni conflict, with the UN Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide expressing concern over the conflict’s toll on civilians and the “virtual silence of the international community.” In a stark shift, Hussein and the Council adopted an alternate, Saudi-crafted text with a decree from exiled Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi calling for UN technical assistance and “capacity building.”
After backing the Dutch resolution, the United States, France, and Britain have acceded to the consensus resolution, a decision which many human rights groups criticized. Human Rights Watch’s Phillipe Dam stated that “the Human Rights Council squandered an important chance to deter further abuses.” U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper emphasized “the terrible humanitarian toll” in Yemen and the United States’ willingness to take further humanitarian action if the situation did not improve. Reportedly, the Obama administration is …
Photo Credit: U.S. News
On Tuesday, September 29, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing titled, “U.S. Role & Strategy in the Middle East: The Humanitarian Crisis.” Witnesses included Michael Gabaudan of Refugees International, Nancy Lindborg of the United States Institute of Peace, and David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee. Below is a recap of the proceedings.
“We can staunch the dying, but it takes politics to stop the killing,” David Miliband told Senator Robert Mendendez (D-NJ) of the Middle East’s growing humanitarian crisis. The relationship between assistance and the root causes of the Syrian conflict took precedence, with senators repeatedly inquiring into the geopolitical aspects of the refugee crisis.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) presided, setting the tone of the hearing by emphasizing the numbers of displaced persons in need of humanitarian assistance (estimated to be 60 million globally) and the need for a fundamental change in the way such crises are perceived. The average time spent in a refugee camp has risen to 17 years, with return to native countries unlikely for many refugees. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) cited this statistic and stated that current refugee laws must be reconsidered in light of …
The annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, now in its 70th session, began early Monday morning. President Barack Obama addressed world leaders regarding several pressing situations that the international community faces today, including in the Middle East and North Africa: “Catastrophes, like what we are seeing in Syria, do not take place in countries where there is genuine democracy and respect for the universal values this institution is supposed to defend.” Obama claimed that the Syrian crisis is no longer just one nation’s national issue but an “assault on all humanity.”
While he acknowledged that countries have been and will continue to work on a solution to the conflict, he also cautioned that there are “no easy answers to Syria. And there are no simple answers to the changes that are taking place in much of the Middle East and North Africa.”
He also spoke on the long legacy of the United Nations in fostering democratic and civil societies. ”It is these international principles that helped constrain bigger countries from imposing our will on smaller ones, and advanced the emergence of democracy and development and individual liberty on every continent.”
Obama reflected on the situation in Libya, where …
The Saudi Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva has been appointed chair of an independent panel of human rights experts on the UN Human Rights Council. In a decision which elicited alarm from the international human rights community, Faisal bin Hassad Trad was chosen to head the “crown jewel” of the UN’s Human Rights Council, which includes the power to select applicants to fill more than 77 positions “dealing with country-specific and thematic human rights mandates.”
Ensaf Haidar, wife of jailed pro-democracy blogger Raif Badawi, indicated the decision is effectively “a green light to start flogging [my husband] again.” UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer speculated that the appointment was a consolation prize for the Saudis, who aimed to head the entire council, adding ““It’s a sad comment on our world that oil continues to trump basic human rights principles.” Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth expressed his disbelief at the appointment, referring to Saudi Arabia’s “awful record.” Concerning the kingdom’s human rights record, Trad previously rejected a UN Human Rights Council report, stating that “the death penalty is a legal measure to protect the right to life and interests of the community.…