UN chief calls on Bahrain leaders to uphold rights

Jun 4, 2011

UNITED NATIONS — UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on Bahrain’s influential crown prince to uphold international rights norms in dealing with opposition protests, a UN spokesman said Saturday.

Ban met with Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and the Gulf state’s foreign minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa at the UN headquarters late Friday, two days after the ending of a state of emergency during which protests were violently put down.

Police dispersed a small group of demonstrators in Bahrain on Friday.

“The secretary general reiterated his call on the government and security forces in Bahrain to uphold international human rights norms and standards and welcomed the commitment and assurances made by the crown prince in this regard,” said UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci.

The prince, head of the Bahrain military is on a tour aiming to ease international fears over Bahrain’s harsh action against opposition protests. He is to visit Washington this week.

Bahrain is a key ally of the United States and other western nations and the violent crackdown has embarrassed many western nations as they strongly criticize other Arab leaders.

The UN secretary general welcomed Bahrain’s lifting of emergency laws and King Hamad’s call for national dialogue, which Ban said must be “genuine, meaningful and inclusive and respond to the legitimate political, economic and social aspirations of all Bahraini people,” the spokeswoman added.

The royal family, which dominates Bahrain life, is Sunni Muslim while the protests for political reform have come out of the Shiites who make up 70 percent of Bahrain’s population.

Bahraini authorities said 24 people were killed in unrest in the kingdom which erupted in February. Saudi Arabia sent troops to help the Khalifa family put down the protests and some opposition leaders are now in jail.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

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