17 Apr 2012

Human rights crisis in Bahrain ‘not over’

Ahead of Bahrain hosting the Grand Prix, Amnesty International accuses the government of failing to address its human rights violations.

Human rights crisis in Bahrain 'not over'

In a new report, Amnesty International calls on the Bahraini government to release all prisoners of conscience and to ensure that those suspected of torturing and killing are held accountable.

In recent months a 14-year-old boy and an 81-year-old woman died after the security forces fired tear gas into their homes, says the charity.

Following the events of February and March 2011, when 40 people died and 1,600 were detained by government forces, and a subsequent investigation by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) there has been some government-led reforms.

But in its 58-page report, entitled Flawed Reforms: Bahrain fails to achieve justice for protesters, Amnesty found that the government’s overall response has been inadequate.

With the world’s eyes on Bahrain as it prepares to host the Grand Prix, no-one should be under any illusions that the countrys human rights crisis is over. Amnesty’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui

“With the world’s eyes on Bahrain as it prepares to host the Grand Prix, no-one should be under any illusions that the countrys human rights crisis is over,” said Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The authorities are trying to portray the country as being on the road to reform, but we continue to receive reports of torture and use of unnecessary and excessive force against protests…The establishment of the BICI was a real breakthrough and raised expectations that things would be different in Bahrain. It is time for the Bahraini government to match its public pronouncements with genuine actions.”

‘Excessive’ force

Another case highlighted in Amnesty’s report as evidence of the government’s use of excessive force, is that of Fadhel Mirza al-Obeidi, a 22-year-old man from al-Deraz village, west of Manama, who died after being hit on the head with a tear gas canister on 3 March this year.

He was carrying a Bahraini flag at the front of a large anti-government march in al-Deraz when riot police opened fire with tear gas. One eyewitness told Amnesty that after al-Obeidi fell to the ground three security men beat him with batons, and he died in hospital on 10 March.

Lack of accountability

While the establishment of the BICI was a “real breakthough”, it needs to show its commitment to reform by holding senior members of the security forces accused of violations to account, releasing prisoners of conscience and addressing the underlying discrimination against the Shia majority population, added Ms Sahraoui.

A number of security officers accused of being responsible for torture during last years protests are believed to still be in their posts without having been investigated.

In addition, scores of prisoners, tried unfairly in military courts and sentenced to long-term prison sentences, have not been released, according to Amnesty’s reports. The prisoners include 14 opposition members arrested last March and April, several of whom report being tortured following their arrest. The verdict in their appeal case is expected to be heard on 23 April.