During an official visit to the US, His Excellency Minister of Interior Lt-General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa held meetings with US government officials and members of the Senate as well as Congressmen over the last two days. He met CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus and FBI Director Robert Mueller. He also met Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael H. Posner in the presence of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs M. Brooke Darby and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Arabian Gulf in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs as well as Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough.
HE the Minister also met a number of US senators including John McCain, head of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, in the presence of Joe Lieberman, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Daniel Inoyem, Ben Cardin and James Risch.
HE the Minister also met Congressman Peter King, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Congressmen and members of the Foreign Affairs Committee Keith Ellison and Dana Rohrabacher, and Congressman and member of the Human Rights Committee Jim McGovern.
HE the Minister highlighted during his meetings the steps taken by Bahrain to deal with the incidents during the past months, including implementation of the recommendations of the final report of the Bahrain International Commission for Inquiry (BICI) set up through a national initiative by His Majesty the King.
HE the Minister affirmed that Bahrain had always led the way to a democratic approach since the launch of the comprehensive reforms project by HM the King more than ten years ago. He stressed that the incidents in Bahrain were not internal matters since they received outside support to escalate them to the level of violence and vandalism. This, he said, had led to death of innocent people and created fear among citizens and residents. "We understand that security and civil peace cannot be achieved by force or through violence and terror but through respect for the law and loyalty to the nation in order to achieve justice. This is a sign of wise governance by HM the King," he said.
In this context, HE the Minister said that the investigations related to the seizure of five tonnes of explosives had shown that a number of them were ready to use and showed links between the suspects in the case and foreign parties.
He affirmed that the culture of violence was not part of the characteristics of Bahraini society and the main issue was the extremist approach through violence as the only means to achieve goals. "The strong national stance under the leadership of HM the King had protected the cohesion of the State and saved it from a real disaster and the damage it could have caused would be hard to predict," he said.
He highlighted that during the crisis Bahrain had witnessed aggressive media attacks based on biased and far-from-objective reports and some international media resources had projected that what was happening in the country was a continuation of the Arab Spring. "This was proven to be baseless," he said, and appreciated the BBC for its brave act of admitting to not being fair while covering the incidents of the last year. He added that this was the kind of stance Bahrain expected from prestigious international channels which claimed to bring the truth to the world.
HE the Minister also highlighted in detail the procedures adopted by the Ministry of Interior to carry out comprehensive reforms in response to the BICI recommendations.
He said that the new Police Code of Conduct was based on various international policing codes, including that of the United Nations. In addition, an Independent Ombudsman had been appointed outside the Ministry and his office looked at all complaints against police and state-of-the-art audio-visual recording systems had been installed at detention centres and police stations. Besides, prisoner management and monitoring systems were being introduced and the Red Cross had full access to detention facilities and all prisoners. The CID is being reformed to move away from confession-based to scientific investigations and evidence.
Gen. David Petraeus appreciated HM the King’s reforms and his wise decision to set up the BICI. He also hailed the police role towards extremists and in the discovery of explosives and thanked Bahrain for supporting the Coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Robert Mueller highlighted the importance of Bahrain as a strong ally and friend of the US. He agreed with HE the Minister about the exaggerations by the media in their coverage of the events in Bahrain and expressed his readiness to cooperate in training and fighting terror and cyber crimes.
Michael Posner appreciated the Kingdom’s efforts towards international cooperation and its commitment to world conventions. He also expressed his understanding of what policemen were facing by way of threats and challenges due to the extremists’ activities and the nature of Bahrain's environment. He said the solution could only be a political one and hoped for the integration of all sections of society in the police force. He also appreciated the government efforts to implement the BICI report and the Ministry’s efforts to implement the police code of conduct.
During his meeting with Mr McDonough, the latter hailed the positive steps taken by the Kingdom and urged the continuation of the reforms. He also said that the principles of accountability and transparency among police should continue.
HE the Minister expressed Bahrain’s keenness to reinforce the security cooperation and exchange of expertise in continuation of the MoU signed in 2007 to open new horizons between the two countries and enhance the effectiveness of security forces.
During HE the Minister’s meeting with senators, Mr McCain and Mr Lieberman expressed their thanks and appreciation to Bahrain for hosting the US Fifth Fleet. Mr McCain hoped the implementation of the BICI report would achieve its goals. He affirmed the importance of rejecting violence in society. Mr Lieberman encouraged connectivity with political societies which were related to Bahrain affairs and showed an understanding of what Bahrain had witnessed in terms of media campaigns and urged official bodies to respond fast as they received information from many parties.
At another meeting, Senator Ben Cardin valued Bahrain's support to the US forces. "Mistakes took place as you acknowledge. The most important thing is that steps were taken to correct them however, the solution for Bahrain must come from Bahrain," the senator said, while highlighting that he knew the situation is better now.
HE the Minister said that a reinforcement of the American expertise was being sought in policing to reach an international level in security and to develop police departments. He also said the Bahraini society was blessed with harmony and peaceful coexistence for a long time and what happened last year came as a shock to everyone.
Congressman Jim McGovern rejected the violence to which policemen were exposed. "We are not defending violent protestors who attack policemen with iron rods and Molotov cocktails. I look for cooperation with human rights organisations to facilitate their visits to Bahrain," he said.
HE the Minister said that coming to terms with what happened in Bahrain would need time, as dealing with social conflicts and overcoming their effects required the right atmosphere and conditions. He said the legal and political aspects had been tackled through the initiatives of HM the King that took into account the humane and civilised aspects as well. He warned that the continuation of a discussion of what had happened might create more conflicts in society and that efforts should be made to close the topic and benefit from the experience to build the road to the future to achieve security, stability and civil peace.
HE the Minister was accompanied by the General Inspector, the General Director of the Ministry of Interior’s Court, the Assistant Undersecretary of Legal Affairs and the Director of Police Media.