Bahrain renews emergency law as repression persists

Press Release
May 4, 2011

Bahrain renews emergency law as repression persists

The Bahraini government must end its relentless crackdown on human rights, Amnesty International said today after the country's parliament voted to extend a repressive state of emergency amid continued arrests of dissidents.

"The Bahraini authorities must stop detaining anyone who opposes them and release protesters who have been locked up for peacefully demanding reform," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Even since the protests on the streets were violently crushed in mid-March the government's persecution of dissidents has not abated, while the renewal of the so-called 'State of National Safety' will only exacerbate this human rights crisis."

Bahraini media reported that members of parliament yesterday voted overwhelmingly to extend the “State of National Safety” for another three months, even though it is not due to expire for another six weeks.

Emergency law had been used to arrest without judicial warrant and detain incommunicado protesters and political activists, as well as to try civilians before military courts.

On Monday, two MPs from al-Wefaq, the largest Shi’a political party, were detained.

Jalal Fairuz, 48, and Matar Ibrahim Matar, 35, were arrested by armed men wearing civilian clothes and their whereabouts are unknown. Both have been critical of the government and have given media interviews to international media outlets.

All 18 al-Wefaq MPs had resigned from parliament in February 2011 to complain against the government’s crackdown on protests, including the deaths of demonstrators and others as a result of excessive use of force. Only 11 resignations were accepted, including those of the two men arrested.

Medical professionals continue to be targeted for arrest, with Dr Ahmed Jamal, President of Bahrain Medical Society, arrested from his clinic on Monday.

Around 47 other doctors and nurses, some detained for weeks, are facing trial in a military court after they were yesterday charged for their role in treating anti-government protesters.

The overwhelming majority of those detained since March 2011 are Shi’a Muslims who were active during the protests, most of whose whereabouts remain unknown.

Some detainees have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated following arrest and at least four people have died in suspicious circumstances.

The dismissal of government employees who were known to have participated in protests continues unabated.

There have also been reports of several Shi'a mosques being destroyed by the security forces, allegedly because they did not have building permits.

This has increased suspicions that the whole of the majority Shi’a population of Bahrain is being punished for the February-March protests, which called for reforms and, in some cases, regime change.