Top US official condemns Bahrain protests
Manama, December 16, 2011
A top US State Department official has condemned violence by protesters in the ongoing clashes with security forces in Bahrain.
Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Michael Posner, currently on a visit to the Kingdom, said that it was imperative for Bahrain to build a stable economic and political future.
"We are concerned about reports of excessive use of force, including tear gas, in response to ongoing street protests," he said.
"I want to be clear that we also condemn the use of violence by demonstrators which the government has an obligation to stop."
Posner was speaking at a Press conference held at the US Embassy in Zinj, accompanied by Ambassador Thomas Krajeski.
"There are still demonstrations going on and we condemn the violence by protesters who use Molotov cocktails, projectiles and oil on the street," he said.
"At the same time, we urge government to restraint use of force and to respond appropriately."
He said the US government was ready to share its experience with their Bahraini counterparts to improve community policing practices, crowd control procedures and accountability for incidents of excessive use of force.
Earlier this month, the Interior Ministry said it appointed former Miami police chief John Timoney to lead training programmes and oversee reforms process for Bahrain's security forces.
The US official said he met senior government officials, opposition members, human rights activists, lawyers, unionists and journalists.
"I also spoke with individuals who were charged in connection with the unrest in February and March, some of whose cases are still pending," he said.
"We also met with members of the commission formed by the government to review recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).
"They are expected to report back by the end of February and we encourage full implementation of the (BICI head Cherif) Bassiouni report."
Posner praised the positive steps taken by the government regarding BICI recommendations.
He cited examples such as the transfer of cases involving security personnel connected to charges of death, torture and inhumane treatment to the Public Prosecutor and addressing issue of reinstatement of workers through a tripartite committee created by the Labour Ministry among other issues.
"We also have registered our concerns about proposed media and civil society laws that could restrict open debate of political issues."
When asked about the US role in bringing together the government and opposition for a dialogue, Posner said he was in Bahrain to "listen, learn and engage with people to have an open constructive discussion among all sections of society."
"The government and opposition should find a way to get to table for open discussion with an open agenda," he said.
Posner welcomed opening of Shia and Sunni political societies as a "healthy thing" to encourage multiple views for a dialogue and "ultimately reconciliation".
"It is up to the Bahraini people to chart their future," said Posner.
"We are not here to dictate to government or anybody else in the society to do the right things. We believe that a process of real dialogue and negotiation, in which all elements of this society have a genuine voice, would help the people and the government find a peaceful and productive way forward."
The official said the US in couple of months would release its annual Human Rights Practices 2011 report.
"There are both troubling things we have seen but also some encouraging responses in particular with the commission and the Bassiouni report," he said.-TradeArabia News Service