HEARING ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE
BAHRAIN INDEPENDENT COMMISSION OF INQUIRY REPORT
IN THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS
AUGUST 1, 2012 HOUSE RAYBURN BUILDING
Congressman Dan Burton Indiana - opening remarks
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I really appreciate being here today, and I look forward to hearing the witnesses' testimony. One of the things that I have found over the years is, when you look at something from afar, many times it isn't as accurate as when you look at things up close. And toward that end, I went to Bahrain a few months ago, and I went to the University of Bahrain. I met with the Crown Prince. I met with people in my office who are part of the opposition, and I have done my best to try to get a better lay of the land than what you get when you look at it from reports and things like that.
I also talked to the commander of the Fifth Fleet when I was there. I also talked to our intelligence officers. And the intelligence officers -- I can't go into some of the classified information I received, but I talked to some of our intelligence officers and found that there are some things to be concerned about, from people coming in from outside the country, from Iran and across the Persian Gulf, to try to take advantage of the unrest that is taking place in Bahrain.
The leaders of Bahrain have passed the report of the national commission charged with recommendations, and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report I brought with me. There are a couple of things I would like to point out. First of all, nobody likes human rights violations. They are horrible. We see them in other parts of the world. We see them in China. We see them in a whole host of areas, and wherever there are human rights violations, we ought to do something about them. But I think we need to have as much information about those human rights violations and what is taking place, before we make a predetermined decision.
Now, of the report from the National Independent Commission of Bahrain, there have been 26 recommendations. Eighteen of those recommendations have been complied with. There is work continuing right now on seven of them, and they are in various stages of implementation. One is not yet applicable.
Bahrain has begun the process of rebuilding religious sites, which were demolished during the unrest. The former police chief of Miami Dade County in Florida, Chief John Timoney, has instituted a new police code of conduct. Ninety two percent of the workers who lost their jobs because of the unrest have now received jobs again, and so they are back to work. There are still eight percent that they have to deal with, and they are working on that right now.
One of the things that surprised me when I talked to the leadership in Bahrain, as well as the other people who live there and work there, was that the opposition has been asked to sit down at the conference table to work out some of the differences, and they have declined to do that on a whole host of issues in a whole host of cases.
I believe that Bahrain has a ways to go, and I believe that the leadership over there does want to solve this problem without further violence and bloodshed. I also believe that it is in the United States best interest to continue to have a viable and strong relationship with Bahrain.
As I said before, we have our Fifth Fleet there, and right now, to start with the problems we face in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, throughout the entire Persian Gulf region and the Middle East, I think it would be a tragic mistake for us to predetermine whether or not the Bahraini government is trying to comply with these recommendations of the Independent Commission.
Let me just say that, if I were talking to the government over there -- and I have talked to them -- I would say that everything that is humanly possible should be done to make sure that there is no indication that human rights violations are continuing, and they are being handled in the wrong way.
The other side of the coin is, some of the policemen who have families, as well as the people in the opposition, have had their houses firebombed. I haven't read anything about that in any of the reports that I have seen, but I have talked to the policemen myself, and I talked to the people who are aware of that in Bahrain. There was one policeman who was gone, he was working, and some demonstrators took Molotov cocktails and threw them at his house when his wife and his children were there.
Now, those sorts of things also are violations of people's human rights, only it is on the other side of the coin. So let me just say that I think that we ought to pay attention to human rights violations wherever they occur, Bahrain or anyplace else. But I truly believe, after having visited with our intelligence people, with the commander of the Fifth Fleet, with people on the street, and with people in the government, that Bahrain is trying to fix this problem and make sure that the situation is improved dramatically.
And they have, in my opinion, taken strides on almost all of the instances to solve this problem. Eighteen of the 26 issues, and there are seven of them that are currently under the stages of implementation.
And I would like to just say, if the opposition is here, and I presume some representatives of the opposition are here, I would urge you, under whatever circumstances are necessary, to sit down with the leadership in the government and try to work things out. To say no because you have strong differences on the implementation of these issues just doesn't make any sense. It is far better to sit across the conference table and try to work out your differences than to continue with unease in the society.
And with that, I thank the chairman for giving me this time.
Congressman Dan Burton
Senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Recorded by NEAL R. GROSS
COURT REPORTERS AND TRANSCRIBERS
1323 RHODE ISLAND AVE., N.W.
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20005-3701
Dan Burton is currently serving his 15th term as a U.S. representative from Indiana's Fifth Congressional District. His first term in Congress began in January 1983. The Fifth District lies in the heart of central Indiana and includes all of Tipton, Grant, Miami, Wabash, Huntington, Hamilton, and Hancock counties, as well as parts of Marion, Shelby, Howard and Johnson counties.
When Congressman Burton assumed the chairmanship of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform in the 105th Congress, he became the first Hoosier Republican to chair a full House Committee in more than 60 years. The last was Rep. William Robert Wood, who chaired the Committee on Appropriations during the 71st Congress (1929-1931). Congressman Burton currently serves as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia. Also, he is a senior member on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Dan Burton was born on June 21, 1938, in Indianapolis. He graduated from Shortridge High School in 1957, and attended Indiana University and the Cincinnati Bible Seminary. Congressman Burton received the honorary degree of doctor of humanities from Capitol University of Integrative Medicine on Dec. 17, 2000. He received an honorary doctorate in political science from the Graduate School of Dongguk University in the Republic of Korea in 2009. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of laws from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2005.
As a proud veteran of our Armed Forces, Dan served in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserves (1957-1962). Before his election to Congress, he held office in the Indiana State Senate (1969-70 and 1981-82), as well as in the Indiana House of Representatives (1967-68 and 1977-80). The Burton family resides in Indianapolis.