HRW in 2016 World Report: Torture in Bahrain Continues Exposing Much-Ballyhooed Reforms

2016-01-29 - 12:59 ص

Bahrain Mirror: Human Rights Watch issued its World Report 2016 in which it highlighted that further evidence emerged in 2015 of torture and mistreatment of detainees, pointing to the ineffectiveness of institutions established since 2011 to safeguard detainees, and the persistent failure of authorities to hold officials accountable for torture and other serious rights violations.

HRW further stated that the Bahraini authorities continued to restrict freedom of expression, prosecuting high profile activists and opposition figures for speech-related offences and subjecting them to unfair trials. The government used repressive new legislation to arbitrarily strip rights activists and political dissidents of their citizenship, in some cases rendering them stateless.

"Bahraini authorities have failed to stop torture and failed to address the culture of impunity that fosters torture," the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson, said in the 659-page World Report 2016, adding that "the much-ballyhooed reforms will remain false advertising until Bahrain stops jailing activists and opposition leaders, holds officers accountable for serious abuses like torture, and gets serious about judicial and security service reform

The HRW World Report 2016 summarizes key human rights issues in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide. It reflects investigative work that Human Rights Watch staff undertook in 2015, usually in close partnership with human rights activists in the country in focus.

In his keynote essay, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth details how fear drove global developments of 2015. Fears of terror attacks and potential impact of refugee influx led to a scaling back of rights in Europe and other regions. In China, Ethiopia, India, and Russia, fears that social media will energize social and political movements helped to drive a disturbing global trend: the adoption of repressive new laws and policies targeting civil society. Roth traces the ways in which human rights law can and should guide responses to these major global developments.

HRW stressed that "individuals detained at the Criminal Investigations Directorate between 2013 and 2015 described a range of torture methods used there, including electric shock, prolonged suspension in painful positions, severe beatings, threats to rape and kill, forced standing, exposure to extreme cold, and abuse of a sexual nature."

"The institutions that the authorities established in response to the BICI report findings and recommendations, in particular the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman, are still failing to hold security forces and high officials accountable for torture and serious mistreatment of persons in custody," it added.

HRW also said: "The SIU has not conducted investigations or prosecutions that have led to the conviction of any individuals for acts of torture in cases relating to Bahrain's political unrest. The ombudsman, who accepts individual complaints and directs them to the appropriate investigatory authority, did not provide details concerning the 83 cases his office referred to the SIU, so it is unclear how many may have related to allegations of torture."

"On June 16, 2015, a Bahraini court convicted Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary general of the country's largest legally recognized opposition political society, Al Wifaq, of three speech-related charges and sentenced him to four years in prison. The presiding judge refused to allow Sheikh Salman's defense lawyers to present potentially exculpatory evidence, including recordings of speeches for which he was prosecuted," it added.

"Authorities had released Ibrahim Sharif, secretary general of the opposition National Democratic Action Society, from prison two weeks earlier, nine months before the end of a five-year sentence. Sharif was re-arrested and accused of encouraging the government's overthrow and "inciting hatred" in a speech that consisted solely of peaceful criticism of the government and calls for political reform," HRW further stated.

Concluding the part on Bahrain, HRW said: "On July 9, the European Parliament adopted an emergency resolution on the rights situation in Bahrain, and on the case of Nabeel Rajab in particular. In July, authorities announced that King Hamad had pardoned Rajab for unspecified health reasons, but at time of writing he still faced charges relating to the comments that led to his arrest in April and remained under a travel ban. In April, authorities had arrested the prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab after he criticized the authorities on social media. In May, a court of appeal upheld a six-month sentence Rajab received in late 2014 for "offending national institutions" after he criticized the government on social media for using counterterrorism laws to prosecute human rights defenders and said that Bahraini security forces foster violent beliefs akin to those of the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS)."


Arabic Issue

التعليقات المنشورة لا تعبر بالضرورة عن رأي الموقع

comments powered by Disqus