US Secretary of State John Kerry [official website] on Thursday reminded [press release] Bahrain to regard human rights as essential amid growing international concern that the government is engaging in sectarian discrimination. The secretary made the remarks in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa [official website] after the two officials had a private discussion. Kerry is in the region [trip summary] to discuss specific aspects of the Gulf Cooperation Council [official website], which includes free trade agreements and cooperation with Iran. While in Bahrain, Kerry discussed the growing opportunities for military cooperation as well as strengthening economic ties. He also took the time to bring awareness to sectarian violence involving the Shi’te community:
In addition, the foreign minister and I have a chance to discuss the ongoing effort to address and to reduce sectarian divisions here in Bahrain and elsewhere, and I appreciate the seriousness with which he considers this issue. We all welcome steps by all sides to create conditions that will provide for greater political involvement for the citizens of this great country. And here, as in all nations, we believe that respect for human rights and an inclusive political system are essential in order to allow citizens to be able to reach and live out their full potential.
The prime minister welcomed the discussion and expressed concern for ensuring the growing conflict with Iran is addressed.
The kingdom of Bahrain is considered an ally of the US but has faced growing international concerns about its human rights practices. Bahraini authorities arrested [JURIST report] four US journalists covering the five-year anniversary of the nation’s 2011 uprising and formally charged them in February. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported [text] in February that nearly five years after Bahrain’s Day of Rage [BBC report] protests sparked [JURIST report] international concern over Bahraini government accountability in human rights, the hope for reform has dwindled.