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Bahrain: U.S. unions push for respect of human and labour rights

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), along with other influential organisations, has urged U.S. Labour Secretary Hilda Solis to release her Department’s finding concerning Bahrain’s compliance with provisions of the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement (FTA). AFT, one of EI’s affiliates in the U.S., was joined in the initiative by the U.S. trade union confederation, AFL-CIO, Human Rights Watch and other activists’ organisations.

 

“We are writing as organisations intimately involved in supporting the aspirations of Bahrainis to advance democracy and human rights in their country,” wrote the organisations in a letter to the Labour Secretary. “Among our core concerns have been the documented violations of the fundamental labour rights of Bahraini trade unionists, health care workers and teachers, for which the International Labour Organisation and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry have called for remedial actions.

“We were initially encouraged when the Department of Labour (DOL) formally agreed to examine Bahrain’s compliance with its worker rights obligations under the U.S.-Bahrain FTA, in connection with a complaint filed by the AFL-CIO.”

US sending a signal

However, more than a year after the formal acceptance of the FTA complaint, and given that it is understood the DOL has investigated and drafted a report on the issue, the DOL has failed to release its findings to an Interagency Committee.

“Serious and escalating violence and violations of human and labour rights continue in Bahrain,” their letter states. “We believe this lack of progress risks sending a signal to both Bahraini civil society and to the Bahraini Government that the U.S. government is not serious about the promotion of human and labour rights in Bahrain.”

The organisations demand that the U.S. Government issue its findings immediately. The government must restate its commitment to these universal labour and human rights principles and both countries’ obligations to respect core labour rights under the bilateral FTA.

EI concern

EI is also closely monitoring the situation of human and trade union rights in this country, and stands in solidarity with Bahraini workers.

It is particularly concerned by the situation of Bahraini Teachers Association (BTA) President Mahdi Abu Dheeb, who has been imprisoned in unacceptable conditions for more than a year.

Recent reports of his situation are very alarming: health and food conditions in the prison are deplorable, and Abu Dheeb’s health is severely deteriorating.

He is also subject to mistreatments. For instance, Abu Dheeb is denied any treatment for diabetes or visits to an eye specialist. He is also denied physiotherapy and other medical treatments prescribed by doctors. And, during the month of Ramadan, Abu Dheeb was not allowed to receive any food from his family.

Abu Dheeb’s final defence court session will be held on 9 September.

Call for a fair trial

EI repeats its demand that national authorities guarantee that Abu Dheeb receives a fair trial, gets appropriate medical treatment, and be set free. It asks its affiliates to urge their national embassies in Bahrain to send a representative to attend Madhi’s trial.

The U.S. organisations’ letter to the US Labour Secretary Hilda Solis can be read in its entirety here

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