For sick or injured Bahrainis, going to the hospital means risking a prison term—or even death. Describing the “militarization of hospitals,” Rula al-Saffar, president of the Bahrain Nursing Society, said patients with “head traumas, broken bones or burns” are first interrogated by police to determine if they are involved in protests against the government. Health professionals are only allowed to treat patients after police investigate and clear them for treatment. For some, the delay means death.
Finally, 17 months after the U.S. Department of Labor accepted a complaint detailing the government of Bahrain’s repeated violations of the free-trade agreement with the United States, the department has reported its findings.
This report, issued today, is laudable for its call for bilateral consultations to address ongoing worker rights violations. However, the delay in its release has been costly—for Bahraini workers, for U.S. credibility as a human rights defender and for workers in other countries with bilateral trade agreements with the United States. If the U.S. government does not live up to its commitments and hold Bahrain accountable to the trade agreement’s labor chapter, then why should we expect other trading partners to bother?
The 2012 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award will honor the Tunisian General Union of Labor (UGTT) and the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU)—two unions whose struggles over the past year are emblematic of labor’s role in the Arab uprisings, the AFL-CIO Executive Council announced at its annual winter meeting in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
One year ago today, a peaceful demonstration massed in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, with tens of thousands of men, women and children joining the call for greater social justice in their country. By exercising their rights to free speech and free assembly, the brave protesters provided their government with the chance to address issues of equality and democracy.
The AFL-CIO Executive Council today praised the role workers and independent trade unions are playing in the popular mobilizations against corrupt, oppressive regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
The AFL-CIO today applauded the U.S. Department of Labor’s decision to accept its complaint regarding the government of Bahrain’s failure to live up to its trade agreement commitments with respect to workers’ rights.
The global union movement is demanding that authorities in Bahrain immediately cease their violent repression of peaceful demonstrations and start talks with the trade union movement and other groups on the concrete demands they and the demonstrators have expressed.