Assistant Secretary of State (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor) Michael Posner appeared as a witness at the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights hearing in Washington, DC.
In his remarks, Mr. Posner restated many of the points he has made on other occasions. He diverged very little from the stance the State Department has taken almost from the beginning of the conflict in Bahrain.
He reiterated that the abuse of human rights in Bahrain is Bahrain’s problem to solve, praised the government’s progress toward reform, and affirmed the Administration’s partnership with the regime.
He also expressed concern about the trials and imprisonment of activists and medics, but stopped short of saying Nabeel Rajab should be released, when questioned on that point, seeming to suggest that the arrest and detention may be considered a legitimate action for some unexpressed reason.
Frustrating to this observer, Posner once again drew the comparison between violent acts by protesters and the regime’s security forces. It is misleading to compare a few isolated, but unfortunate, violent incidents by a small minority of protesters with the daily and systematic, full-scale assaults by the vastly more vicious and better-armed regime security forces, including unprovoked attacks on peaceful demonstrators and innocent bystanders.
There is no parity here in force or impact, nor is there any evidence of parity, yet Posner continues to call on both sides to exercise restraint with equal emphasis.
To add insult to injury, he stated that the same government that tortured its citizens, imprisoned activists, and prosecuted its doctors showed "courage” in owning up to its offenses to the world in the face of undeniable proof. Courage is not a term that most people of conscience equate with the government of Bahrain these days.
Notably absent from his remarks were any comments on the use of tear gas, bird shot pellets, and rubber bullets, nor did he make any reference to the children and adults who had been maimed or killed by security forces and the deplorable prison conditions suffered by the unjustly imprisoned political activists.
Few were surprised when Representative Dan Burton expressed satisfaction with Mr. Posner’s remarks at the conclusion of his testimony.