BEIRUT, LEBANON – Lawmakers attending an inter-parliament gathering in Bahrain’s capital this week should seize the “opportunity” to address the Gulf state’s “dismal rights record”, rights groups have said.
Parliamentarians from around the world are planning to attend this year’s Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the oldest and largest organization of parliaments in the world, in Manama from March 11 to 15.
In a joint letter late Monday, 22 rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, called on participants to tackle human rights concerns.
“We urge you to ensure that the IPU’s 146th Assembly will not be used by the Bahraini authorities to whitewash its dismal rights record,” the letter said.
Bahrain, an ally of the United States and home to its Fifth Fleet, has faced frequent criticism over its rights record.
“The Bahraini government’s invitation to hold the assembly in Manama this year in Bahrain is significant in the opportunity it presents to parliamentarians,” the rights groups said.
“They can act to improve the human rights situation in the country, for their counterpart MPs as well as the broader Bahraini population.”
Authorities launched a crackdown after an Arab Spring-inspired movement of largely Shiite protesters hit the streets in 2011 to demand an elected government for the Gulf kingdom of some 1.4 million people.
Hundreds of demonstrators have since been jailed and opposition parties outlawed.
The government claims Iran gave the demonstrators training and support in a bid to topple it — an accusation Tehran denies.
On Sunday, Sheikh Abdulla bin Ahmed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, undersecretary for political affairs at the Bahraini foreign ministry, reiterated the government’s position on its human rights record.
“Human rights have naturally been an integral part of Bahrain domestic policy,” he told journalists on the sidelines of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix.
“There is a lot that has been achieved”.