Obama speech: USA must 'learn from mistakes of past' in Middle East and North Africa

No more ‘easy rides’ for Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Israel

The US President must use his speech on the Middle East to commit to the pursuit of a more even-handed approach to Arab states, one which has the protection and promotion of human rights at its heart, Amnesty International said today.

Barack Obama is set to make the speech, his first major address following the wave of mass protests that has swept the Middle East and North Africa, later today.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart said:

“The US President must make clear that the US has learnt from the mistakes of the past when it supported governments such as those in Egypt and Tunisia whose claim to provide ‘political stability’ was based on wide-scale repression and abuse of human rights.

“The US administration has rightly condemned the gross abuses that have been committed by Colonel al-Gaddafi's forces in Libya and the Assad government in Syria, and continuing repression in Iran.

“It has been far less outspoken and effective in addressing the current clampdowns in Bahrain and Yemen or on pressing the Saudi Arabian authorities on the need for change, giving an impression that the US gives special favour to its allies and friends, regardless of their human rights violations.

“The President must make clear that the US government is committed to promoting freedom, justice and accountability with friend and foe alike.

“There should be no more ‘easy rides’ for governments such as those in Bahrain and Yemen, as they try to crush popular protests and calls for change; likewise, the Israeli government must know that it will be held to account by the same standards as other states to deliver justice and accountability."

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