NYCFPA Report on the role of the U.S in Human Rights Restoration in Bahrain

A report by New York Center For Foreign Policy Affairs (NYCFPA) called on the US to exert further pressure on Kingdom of Bahrain to improve human rights conditions in the country. The report has been carried out in partnership with Academics, Universities and Research Institutes in the US and Europe. University of Wisconsin–Madison, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Chapman University and Journal of Liberty and International Affairs. Writers from the aforementioned bodies included Dr. Alexandros Sarris, Dr. Hilmi Ulas and  Dr. Jean Vilbert.

The report titled “The role of the United States in Human Rights Restoration in Bahrain said that  the role of the USA, at least in the short-term, American foreign policy appears poised to support regime stability and the status quo over promoting human rights in Bahrain. This especially holds true without any shifts in America’s relations with either the KSA or Iran. Indeed, given the current dynamics in MENA, the USA will inevitably need to balance ‘hard’ security goals against ‘soft’ moral interests – and when morality clashes with security, the latter tends to prove more dominant in foreign polic

It argued that any US intervention (military intervention, military assistance, sanctions, or economic assistance) seem to have at best a neutral and at worst a detrimental effect on democratization, instead reinforcing repression. Even if the USA were to attempt to promote human rights and democratization in Bahrain, the USA would need to not only render conditional aid for significant reforms but it would also need to help increase domestic institutional and civil society capacities to ensure sustainability. However, given the current trends in the USA-Bahrain relationships as well as the American security alliances in MENA, the USA is not only unlikely to contribute to democracy and human rights in Bahrain. Importantly and in general, any US intervention (military intervention, military assistance, sanctions, or economic assistance) seem to have at best a neutral and at worst a detrimental effect on democratization, instead reinforcing repression.

All in all, American influence in Bahrain is most likely to help further entrench the al Khalifa family’s autocratic and repressive tendencies rather than contributing to democratization or human rights promotion. However, if the USA does plan to have a positive influence on Bahrain along these two metrics, then a two-pronged policy appears the most suitable: render economic and military aid to both Bahrain and KSA conditional on the former’s democratization; and put pressure on the KSA to support democratic reforms in Bahrain. While this approach may pose inherent short-term hazards such as a temporary decline of regional influence, the short-term humanitarian gains and the long-term strategic gains of ensuring regional stability through promoting human rights and democracy appear well worth the risk – a risk which, without a change in the American approach to security, is unlikely to be taken.


Amnesty International and other international and regional organizations submitted the following recommendations to the Government of Bahrain. If implemented, these measures could help to improve the human rights situation in the country and would demonstrate a genuine commitment to the promotion of international human rights standards and their effective implementation.

  1. Conduct prompt, through and impartial investigation into all incidents involving the killing of demonstrators in strict accordance with the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. The investigations should be conducted by a body which is independent of those allegedly responsible for the killings and the methods and findings of these investigations should be made public immediately.
  2. Issue clear instructions to the security forces and other law enforcement personnel to abide by the UN Basic Principles of the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which prohibit the intentional lethal use of firearms except “when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life”. Clear instructions should also be given to the security forces as to the safe use of tear gas.
  3. Conduct thorough, prompt and impartial investigations into all reported incidents of torture, including cases of death in custody. The investigations should be independent of those allegedly responsible and the methods and findings of these investigations should also be made public immediately. All investigations of deaths in custody after alleged torture should be consistent with the strict standards in the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.
  4. Bring to justice law enforcement personnel responsible for reported extrajudicial executions, torture or other human rights violations. All investigations and trials should be held before ordinary criminal courts in accordance with international standards for fair trial.
  5. Expressly prohibit all extrajudicial executions and torture and ensure that any such violations are recognized as criminal offences and are punishable by penalties which take into account the gravity of the crime. Such penalties should be consistent with international standards and exclude the death penalty and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
  6. Amend the 1974 Decree Law on State Security Measures, to ensure that it conforms with international human rights standards, in particular by ensuring that detainees in all cases are brought promptly before a judge. In addition, it should ensure that the all people under any form of detention have the right to take proceedings before a court in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of the detention and order release if the detention is unlawful, and that lawyers have the right to represent their clients effectively at every stage of the proceedings. Detainees must also be given prompt and regular access to relatives, lawyers and independent medical doctors as necessary.
  7. Ensure that all detainees are held only in officially recognized places of detention and that accurate information about the arrest, detention and whereabouts of any person is made available promptly to relatives, lawyers, doctors and the courts.
  8. Ensure that all confessions which were induced by torture, ill-treatment or coercion and all statements obtained in the absence of a lawyer or otherwise illegally obtained, be excluded as evidence, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made. All persons who have been tortured should be given fair and adequate compensation and those responsible should be brought to justice.
  9. Establish and maintain local and central public registers of all detainees in accordance with international instruments such as Rule 7 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and Principle 12 of the UN Body of Principles on the Protection of all Persons under any form of Detention or Imprisonment to be updated on a frequent and regular basis and made available on request to relatives, ministry of justice officials, judges, lawyers and representatives of human rights organizations.
  10. Retry all persons convicted by the State Security Court. Since the trials before the State Security Court were unfair, all defendants convicted by this special court should be retried by an ordinary criminal court in accordance with international standards for fair trial. All trials in the State Security Court should be halted and cases transferred to ordinary criminal courts. The State Security Court should be abolished.
  11. End the practice of forcible exile, which contravenes Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and which is expressly proscribed under Article 17 (c) of Bahrain’s Constitution. The government of Bahrain should issue a public declaration that all Bahraini nationals are entitled to return to Bahrain.
  12. Provide fair and adequate compensation to the victims of human rights violations and their families.
  13. Ratify human rights treaties without limiting reservations. Bahrain should ratify human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights together with its first Optional Protocol and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.


 Dr. Jean Vilbert

Jean Vilbert holds a bachelor’s and a master’s in Laws in the field of Fundamental Rights. He taught Law in Brazil for almost a decade and served as a judge for the last five years. Then he decided that he would seek further education and positions that allow him to draw legal-economic policies to make people more likely to climb the social ladder, especially in poor countries. He is a MIPA candidate at the La Follette School of Public Affairs – University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jean has been selected as a Franklin Firstbrook Fellow by the LACIS department at the University of Wisconsin to focus his academic research mainly on Latin American issues.

Dr. Alexandros Sarris 

Alexandros Sarris is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Erasmus University College coordinating the International Law Major. In the past, he has taught International Law Courses at Leiden University and has contributed  as a Graduate Research Fellow at Program on Negotiations at Harvard Law School and at MIT as an external Researcher at Science Impact Collaborative within the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Alexandros current research examines the situation in the Arctic; the changing climate in the Arctic Ocean has given rise to legal concerns regarding national defense and mineral exploitation and as a result the question of State sovereignty over the Arctic has become again a matter of legal, political and environmental importance.

During his presence at PON Alexandros examines the issue of effective Governance and Consensus Building in the Arctic through the completely reform of the Arctic Council to an effective and relevant regional organization having the power to balance the conflicting interests among States, International Organizations, and the protection of the unique Environment of the Arctic. Moreover, he examines the possibility of the creation of a new Arctic Treaty that will provide an acceptable and enforceable legal regime.

Dr. Hilmi Ulas

Dr. Hilmi Ulas, Assistant Professor of Peace Studies at Chapman University, is a Cypriot scholar-practitioner of conflict resolution. He holds both a PhD and an MS degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University, as well as a BA in Political Science and French from Grinnell College. His scholarship focuses on conflict resolution in unrecognized states, democratization, and nonviolence, as well as peace and conflict in fiction. His teaching emphasizes discussion and experiential learning practices, and his classes often incorporate simulations, games, and projects. At Chapman, he teaches classes at all levels of undergraduate education, ranging from Intro to Capstone. Dr. Ulas is also the advisor for the Peace Studies Major, and enjoys advising students on their education as well as their post-graduation career plans. In the past, he has also been involved in running youth workshops for peacebuilding as a practitioner in the field. Prior to arriving at Chapman, Dr. Ulas was the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the American University of Cyprus, and also taught conflict resolution at George Mason University.

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