Read US State Departments 2018 Report on Human Rights in Bahrain

2019-03-19 - 3:38 am

Bahrain Mirror: The 2018 US State Department report highlighted the human rights violations witnessed in Bahrain, relying on what was included in reports of Bahraini human rights organizations.

The report noted that the legislative elections was held on November 24, 2018 without the participation of the two formerly prominent opposition parties; Al-Wefaq and Wa'ad, due to their dissolution in 2016 and 2017. It said that the government did not permit international election monitors.

It stated that human rights issues in Bahrain included allegations of torture; arbitrary detention; political prisoners; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; restrictions on freedom of expression, the press, and the internet, including censorship, site blocking, and criminal libel; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including restrictions on independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from freely operating in the country; significant restrictions on freedom of movement, including bans on international travel and revocation of citizenship; and restrictions on political participation, including the banning of former members of Al-Wefaq and Wa'ad from standing as candidates in the elections.

The government occasionally prosecuted low-level security force members accused of human rights abuses, following investigations by government or quasi-governmental institutions. Nonetheless, due to the frequently slow and ineffective nature of investigations, impunity remained a problem.

Torture and Other Degrading Treatment

Human rights groups reported previous detainee accounts alleging security officials beat them, placed them in stress positions, humiliated them in front of other prisoners, deprived them of sleep and prayers, and insulted them based on their religious beliefs. Human rights organizations also reported authorities denied medical treatment to injured or ill detainees and prisoners. Detainees reported that security forces committed abuses during searches, arrests at private residences, and during transportation. Detainees reported intimidation, such as threats of violence, took place at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) headquarters facility. Some detainees at the CID reported security officials used physical and psychological mistreatment to extract confessions and statements under duress or to inflict retribution and punishment.

According to Amnesty International, Ali Mohamed Hakeem Al-Arab and Ahmad Al-Malali were tortured after being transferred to Jaw Prison following their conviction on charges including "forming and joining a terrorist group."

Human rights groups reported authorities subjected children, sometimes younger than age 15, to various forms of mistreatment, including beating, slapping, kicking, and verbal abuse.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Human rights activists reported conditions in prisons and detention centers were harsh and sometimes life threatening, due to overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Detainees and human rights organizations also reported abuse in official pretrial detention centers, as well as in Isa Town Prison, Jaw Prison, and Dry Dock Detention Center.

The report indicated that Madina Ali launched a hunger strike. There were reports of lack of access to water for drinking and washing. Inmates' families also reported water was only available for a few hours a day at Jaw Prison. Human rights organizations reported food was adequate for most prisoners; however, those prisoners needing dietary accommodations due to medical conditions had difficulty receiving special dietary provisions.

The report also talked about shortage of prisoners' medical services. Human rights organizations said that prisoners had been denied proper medical care. Elias Mullah's family asserted Mullah was dying from stage three colon cancer in Jaw prison and alleged prison officials had failed to ensure he received adequate medical treatment. They also reported that officials denied Mullah his cancer medication for 21 days.

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations reported that government-affiliated human rights institutions did not fully investigate or follow up on claims of abuse. Furthermore, Amnesty reported that detainees faced reprisals for their or their families' attempts to engage with the Ombudsman's Office.

Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The report tackled the case of Sheikh Ali Salman and the life sentence against him. It said that Sheikh Salman appealed his sentence to the Court of Cassation, but the court made no decision as of year's end.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Local activists and human rights organizations reported that the demographics of police and security forces failed to represent adequately Shia communities. The ministry did not keep official statistics on the number of Shia members of the community police force. Community members reported that Shia citizens were among those integrated into the community police and the police cadet programs. Information was not available on recruitment rates of Shia citizens into other security forces.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The report said that judges often denied bail requests without explanation, even in nonviolent cases.

Attorneys reported difficulty in gaining access to their clients in a timely manner through all stages of the legal process. They reported difficulty registering as a detainee's legal representative because of arbitrary bureaucratic hurdles; arbitrary questioning of credentials by police; lack of notification of clients' location in custody; arbitrary requirements to seek court orders to meet clients; prohibitions on meeting clients in private; prohibitions on passing legal documents to clients; questioning of clients by PPO on very short notice; lack of access to clients during police questioning; and lack of access to consult with clients in court. There were reports detainees never met with their state appointed attorney before or during their trial.

Human rights groups reported the Ministry of Interior sometimes arrested individuals for activities such as calling for and attending protests and demonstrations, expressing their opinion either in public or on social media, and associating with persons of interest to law enforcement. Some of these detained individuals reported arresting forces did not show them warrants.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

According to human rights organizations, the government continued to imprison members of the opposition, along with scores of others detained for what these organizations assert is peaceful political activity. It talked about the case of Hasan Mushaima who was denied necessary medical treatment and the protest held by his son for this reason.

Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Many citizens and human rights organizations believed police used informant networks, including ones that targeted or used children younger than 18.

Reports also indicated the government used computer programs to spy on political activists and members of the opposition inside and outside the country. According to local and international human rights groups, security officials sometimes threatened a detainee's family members with reprisals for the detainee's unwillingness to cooperate during interrogations and refusal to sign confession statements.

Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

Human rights organizations reported that security forces detained former parliamentarian Ali Rashed Al-Asheeri tweeting his intention to boycott the 2018 parliamentary elections. He was released later. In a significant decrease from 2017, there were five cases of "inciting hatred against a religious sect" and 510 cases of misuse of a telecommunications device.

On December 31, the Court of Cassation upheld a five-year prison sentence against Nabeel Rajab for his tweets too.

With respect to independent and opposition media outlets, the report stated that since the closure of the newspaper, opposition perspectives were only available via online media sources based outside the country, some of which the government blocked.

According to local journalists and human rights groups, authorities sometimes harassed, arrested, or threatened journalists, photographers, and "citizen journalists". The government arrested or deported individuals engaged in journalism who were in the country on other types of visas.

Ministry of Information Affairs personnel actively monitored and blocked stories on matters deemed sensitive, especially those related to sectarianism, national security, or criticism of the royal family, the Saudi royal family, or the judiciary. Journalists widely practiced self-censorship. Some members of media reported government officials contacted editors directly and told them to stop publishing articles, press releases, or stories on certain subjects.

The government blocked access to some websites from inside the country, including some opposition-linked websites. The government continued blocking Qatari news websites such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Sharq, and Raya. The government restricted internet freedom and monitored individuals' online activities, including via social media, leading to degradation of internet and mobile phone services for some neighborhoods and to legal action against some internet users.

Political and human rights activists reported being interrogated by security forces regarding their postings on social media. They sometimes reported repeated interrogations that included threats against their physical safety and that of their families, threats against their livelihood, and threats of denial of social services such as housing and education. Several activists reported shutting down or deciding to cease posting to their social media accounts because of the threats.

Besides, the government restricted academic freedom and cultural events. Some academics engaged in self-censorship, avoiding discussion of contentious political issues.

Human rights advocates claimed government officials unfairly distributed university scholarships and were biased against Shia students. Students reported authorities questioned them on their political beliefs and those of their families during interviews.

As for freedom of association, NGOs and civil society activists asserted the ministry routinely exploited its oversight role to stymie the activities of NGOs and other civil society organizations. Officials actively sought to undermine some groups' activities and imposed burdensome bureaucratic procedures on NGO board members and volunteers.

The report pointed out to Bahrain's role in Hakeem Al-Araibi's case.

On citizen revocation, the report said that as a punitive measure, the government continued to revoke citizenship in both criminal and political cases. Authorities maintained the revocation of citizenship of some opposition political and religious figures. On May 15, the High Criminal Court revoked the citizenship of 115 citizens. Activists asserted the trial was unfair. The report stated that while revocation of citizenship is legal, allegations that confessions were extracted under torture raised questions about the proceedings.

There were reports authorities refused applications for birth certificates and passports for children whose Bahraini fathers were in prison. BCHR documented cases of children who had not received citizenship because their fathers were dissidents. The government had granted citizenship to all of the children named in the report, with the exception of Sarah Ali Salman, daughter of prominent Shia cleric and politician Ali Salman.

Concerning the political societies, the report indicated that the Bahraini government did not allow the formation of political parties, and that it dissolved the two most prominent opposition political societies, Al-Wefaq and Wa'ad through legal actions.

On the level of corruption, the report stated that significant areas of government activity, including the security services and the Bahrain Defense Force, lacked transparency, and the privatization of public land remained a concern among opposition groups.

Domestic human rights groups faced significant difficulties operating freely and interacting with international human rights organizations. Local NGO leaders and activists also reported government harassment, including the imposition of travel bans, police surveillance, delayed processing of civil documents, and "inappropriate questioning" of their children during interviews for government scholarships.

Individuals affiliated with international human rights and labor organizations, or who were critical of the government, reported authorities indefinitely delayed or refused visa applications, or at times refused entry to the country for individuals who possessed a valid visa or qualified for the country's visa-free entry program.

Regarding the government human rights bodies, international human rights organizations questioned the independence and effectiveness of government-affiliated oversight institutions. Local and international observers and human rights organizations also continued to express concern the government had not fully implemented BICI recommendations, including dropping charges against individuals engaged in nonviolent political expression, criminally charging security officers accused of abuse or torture, integrating Shia citizens into security forces, and creating an environment conducive to national reconciliation.

Sexual harassment remained a widespread problem for women, especially foreign women domestic workers.

The report discussed violations against children and said that there were reports police approached children outside schools and threatened or coerced them into becoming police informants.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) and international NGOs noted foreign workers and women faced discrimination in the workplace.

The report further stated that the lack of transparency in hiring processes, especially for government positions, led to many complaints of discrimination based on sect or ethnicity. Human rights organizations reported that Shia citizens faced widespread employment discrimination in both the public and private sectors, notably in the managerial ranks of the civil service, as well as positions in the security services and the military.

Arabic Version



: Bahrain Mirror