FCO Annual Report: Concerns over Freedom of Speech in Bahrain Yet Progress Achieved on HR Issues
2016-04-23 - 2:54 am
Bahrain Mirror: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that Bahrain achieved progress on human rights in Bahrain throughout 2015, although challenges remain, indicating that the Government of Bahrain continued to take steps to implement its human rights and political reform agenda.
In its annual report about human rights and democracy in the world, FCO said the UK's package of technical assistance to support reform in Bahrain began in 2012. Much of it has focused on building effective and accountable institutions, strengthening the rule of law and police and justice reform, in line with the recommendations in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This co-operation will continue in 2016.
The FCO noted that the beneficiaries of the UK's support include "the National Institution of Human Rights (NIHR), Ministry of Interior Ombudsman, Prisoners' and Detainees' Rights Commission (PDRC) and Special Investigations Unit (SIU)," indicating "whilst allegations of ill-treatment in detention continue, confidence in these organizations is increasing, and they are working more effectively."
"The NIHR's 2014 Annual Report, published in December 2015, states that it registered 88 complaints. Meanwhile, the Ombudsman's Annual Report includes figures which indicate a 375% increase in the Ombudsman's activity over the previous year," FCO added, welcoming the Ombudsman's "pivotal" role "in investigating the causes of the riots, the authorities' response, and the aftermath (his having received 196 requests for assistance from detainees' relatives."
As for the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), FCO said that the unit "has increasingly investigated complaints of allegations of torture or ill-treatment. 70 police officers have been charged with mistreatment and/or torture/ assault. In some cases, the SIU appealed lenient sentences given to police officers, including the two found guilty in the case against Fadel Abbas (reported in the BICI)."
Concerning the freedoms of opinion, expression and assembly, FCO said that "there are continued concerns regarding freedom of speech and expression and peaceful assembly," noting that "206 Bahraini citizens had their nationality revoked, with most of these individuals convicted of terrorism-related crimes."
With respect to the death penalty, FCO continues to raise concerns over the death penalty with the Bahraini government, highlighting that 14 people (including three in absentia) have been sentenced to death by the Bahraini courts for their roles in the death of law enforcement personnel. Five of these convictions have been confirmed by the Supreme Court.
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