Annual Report: Bahrain 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Bahrain 2013

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Kingdom of Bahrain

Head of state King Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa

Head of government Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa

The authorities continued to crack down on protests and dissent. The government made some reforms based on the recommendations of a major inquiry into human rights violations in 2011, but failed to implement some of the inquiry’s main recommendations in relation to accountability. Scores of people remained in prison or were detained for opposing the government, including prisoners of conscience and people sentenced after unfair trials. Human rights defenders and other activists were harassed and imprisoned. The security forces continued to use excessive force against protesters, resulting in deaths, and allegedly tortured or otherwise ill-treated detainees. Only a few security officers were prosecuted for human rights violations committed in 2011, perpetuating a climate of impunity. One death sentence was imposed; there were no executions.

Background

There were further anti-government protests, mostly by members of the majority Shi’a community who complained of being politically marginalized by the ruling Sunni minority. There were reports of demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails and blocking roads. Security forces used excessive force in dispersing some demonstrations. Political dialogue between the government and the opposition remained largely stalled.

In November, the government reported that “two Asians” had been killed and a third injured by bomb explosions in Manama. Days later, the authorities stripped 31 people of their Bahraini nationality saying they had damaged state security.

The government introduced several reforms recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011, including reinstating dismissed workers and establishing police reform mechanisms. In October, it amended some articles of the Penal Code and included a new definition of torture. However, the government failed to implement other key recommendations of the BICI, which was appointed by the King in 2011 to investigate human rights violations committed by government forces when suppressing popular protests in the early months of 2011. In particular, the authorities failed to release all prisoners of conscience and to independently investigate allegations of torture of detainees and bring all the perpetrators to justice. However, under the UN Universal Periodic Review in May, the government accepted over 140 recommendations, including calls to implement the BICI’s recommendations. The government rejected other recommendations under the UN Universal Periodic Review concerning abolition of the death penalty. The government imposed tighter visa controls on foreign NGOs in March and, in October, banned all public rallies and gatherings. It lifted the ban in December. In November, the Ministry of Social Development overruled the election results for the board of the Bahrain Lawyers Society, and reinstated the previous board.

Impunity

There was a continuing climate of impunity, reflected by the low number of prosecutions of police officers and security forces members relative to the extent and gravity of human rights violations committed in 2011. The authorities failed to independently investigate all allegations of torture. Only a handful of low-ranking security officers and two senior officers were brought to trial in connection with killings of protesters or torture and other abuses against detainees in custody in 2011. Three were convicted and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment but at least one remained at liberty pending an appeal. Three others were acquitted, prompting a prosecution appeal.