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In a dramatic diplomatic move, the United States has put Bahrain on its list of human rights violators to be scrutinized by the UN Human Rights Council.

 

“The Bahraini government has arbitrarily detained workers and others perceived as opponents,” said U.S. Ambassador Eileen Donohoe. “The United States is deeply concerned about violent repression of the fundamental freedoms of association, expression, religion and speech of their citizens.” The US statement also listed Belarus, China, Cuba, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Venezuala  and Zimbabwe for council attention because of human rights abuses.

 

Among those on trial in the special military court in Manama are a prominent human rights lawyer and 48 medical staff arrested after they treated protesters wounded in the February and March unrest.

 

In a separate move, the Formula 1 governing body has taken the Bahrain Grand Prix off the 2011 calendar.

 

June 11, 2011

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk


 

Despite the lifting of the emergency rule earlier in the month, Shiites in the kingdom continue to express anger amid accusations of torture and widespread human rights violations. This has continued to put pressure on the regime which appears to be losing the public diplomacy campaign. The criticism of Bahrain by the US government and the lumping of the country with what the US considers dictatorships will inflict considerable damage on the image of the country. This will make the economic recovery even more difficult, and longer to achieve.

 

The decision not to hold Formula 1 will also inflict heavy reputational damage, as well as economic losses to the country’s national carrier Gulf Air.

 

Although reformists in the regime, including the Crown Prince are understood to be in favour of engaging with the opposition, hardline elements within the regime are hampering those efforts. With the regime intent on keeping the current prime-minister and uncle of the current King, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, in power, prospects of a long-term political solution remain small, as he is viewed negatively by the opposition and elsewhere.

 

The effect of the recent events make the economic situation in the country and prospects of recovery closely correlated with progress on the political front. As a result, in the current stagnant but highly tense internal political climate, there is an increased risk of further economic losses in Bahrain, and a substantially reduced possibility of a speedy recovery. In particular, financial institutions that have made Bahrain their regional hub will likely start considering more permanent relocations to other parts of the region, including Dubai and Doha. The permanent damage this can do to the Bahraini economy will be substantial, given the importance of financial services in the county.

 

Below is a figure showing the make-up of the GDP, in 2010.