Annual Report: Bahrain 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Bahrain 2011

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  • In March, the Supreme Appeal Court convicted 19 men accused of killing a police officer during an anti-government demonstration in 2008 in Karzakan and sentenced them to three years in prison. In October 2009 a lower court had acquitted them, finding that there was extensive evidence that the accused had been tortured in pre-trial detention to force them to "confess". This finding was ignored by the Supreme Appeal Court. No steps were taken to investigate the men's torture allegations.

Other cases of torture were also reported.

  • Two men, who were detained for the alleged attempted murder in August of a newspaper editor, were said to have been tortured to obtain detailed confessions used in court. They were released in December after the victim told the court that they were not the people who had attacked him.

Excessive use of force

Several times during the year security forces were reported to have fired shotguns at protesters and others. In October, the Interior Minister told Amnesty International that the security forces had tried to contain protests and violence without using excessive force and that no one had been wounded by their actions.

  • In March, Ibrahim al-Dumistani and ‘Abdel-‘Aziz Nasheeb, both nurses, were arrested after they assisted Hussain ‘Ali Hassan al-Sahlawi who had been shot, apparently by police trying to disperse a protest in Karzakan in which demonstrators had burned tyres. The injured man said he had not been protesting and was shot by police outside his home. The nurses were charged with assisting a "cover up" and "abusing their medical profession", and quickly released on bail.

Freedom of expression

Critics of the monarchy and government were warned that they would be prosecuted under the 2002 Press and Publications Law, which prescribes prison terms for those criticizing the King or "inciting hatred of the regime", although no such prosecutions were reported.

The government clamped down further on dissent after the arrest of the 23 opposition activists. On 28 August, the Public Prosecutor invoked Article 246 of the Penal Code to prohibit the media and others from publishing or broadcasting information about the arrests; breaches would be punishable by up to one year in prison. Although no prosecutions were reported, the government banned and shut down various publications and blogs. Among them was the Bahrain Online forum, which the Director of the National Information Agency said in October had been closed because it was deemed to have incited hatred and violence. He also said that other websites had been blocked because they had published material that breached Bahraini law, and that newsletters of political associations had been banned as the law only allows their circulation to members whereas these had been distributed to the public.

Freedom of association

In September, the government suspended the board of the independent NGO Bahrain Human Rights Society, accusing it of "legal and administrative irregularities" and "co-operating with illegal organizations". Shortly before, the NGO had published on their website allegations of torture relating to the 23 detained Shi'a activists. The government appointed a temporary administrator, severely compromising the society's independence.

Several human rights activists were prevented from travelling abroad, although the government denied that travel bans had been issued against them.