Bahrain Human Rights

Human Rights Concerns

On February 14, 2011, the Bahraini people began protests demanding greater civil and political rights; the same day the first demonstrator was killed by security forces. The ensuing government crackdown led to a continuing human rights crisis: excessive force was repeatedly used by security forces against peaceful protesters. Close to 50 people were killed and hundreds injured. Hundreds were arrested and tried before military courts, many reporting torture or ill-treated in detention. More than 4,000 protesters were dismissed from their jobs or expelled from university.

Bahrain: One Year On

One year ago, on 14 February 2011, the majority of Bahraini people began protests demanding greater civil and political rights; the same day the first demonstrator was killed by security forces. Over the course of the following months the country entered an acute human rights crisis: excessive force was repeatedly used by security forces against peaceful protesters and close to 50 people were killed and hundreds others injured. Hundreds of people were also arrested and tried before military courts, with many reporting they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention. More than 4,000 protesters were dismissed from their jobs or expelled from university for having participated in the protests.

In spite of the Bahraini security forces' demonstrated willingness to use excessive force to repress protesters, the United States Department of State announced a planned sale of $53 million of weapons and equipment to Bahrain. In response to concerns raised by activists, Members of Congress and others that vehicles, weapons and munitions proposed are likely to be used against the civilian population, the sale is on hold. However, the administration recently announced its intention to proceed with a smaller transfer, including spare parts and maintenance equipment. Despite assurances that nothing in this transfer will be used to commit human rights violations, the burden of proof in this regard in on the US government. Without full transparency, we cannot count on such assurances. Any US arms transfers must be subject to public scrutiny.

On 23 November 2011 the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), set up by royal decree on 29 June, presented its findings to the King of Bahrain. The BICI's report concluded, amongst other things, that excessive force had been used against protesters, that torture was widespread and that many people were on trial or had been sentenced to prison terms for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. The report made a number of recommendations which the King promised to implement.

Despite some steps being taken, such as the opening of the trial of eight policemen, five of them Pakistani, one Yemeni and two Bahrainis accused of mistreating prisoners and killing protesters and bringing in international human rights experts and policing experts to train the police, Amnesty International is not aware of any serious steps taken to ensure accountability. Most glaringly, no action is known to have been taken so far against any high-ranking security officers or government officials for their involvement in human rights abuses. Neither have any outcome of investigations into alleged torture been made public. Despite the fact that several private companies announced the reinstatement of employees who had been dismissed because of their participation in protests, hundreds of people have yet to be reinstated. Dozens of university students are still waiting to be allowed to resume their studies. Most worryingly, excessive force continues to be used against protesters on almost a daily basis and the death toll mounts. Reports of torture and ill-treatment continue to reach Amnesty International.

Many continue to face injustice. Twenty doctors and nurses sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for their involvement in protests are currently appealing their sentences. Fourteen opposition activists, including Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Ebrahim Sharif, remain behind bars, having been sentenced to up to life in prison in an unfair trial by a military court. These are only a few examples amongst hundreds of similar stories.

Bahrain Newsroom

February 26, 2019 • Report

Human rights in the Middle East and North Africa: A review of 2018

The international community’s chilling complacency towards wide-scale human rights violations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has emboldened governments to commit appalling violations during 2018 by giving them the sense that they need never fear facing justice, said Amnesty International as it published a review of human rights in the region last year. …

September 6, 2017 • Report

No one can protect you: Bahrain’s year of crushing dissent

A new report published by Amnesty International today sheds light on the repressive tactics used by the Bahraini government over the past year to crush civil society and violently crack down on protests, leading to the deaths of six people, including one child.

July 19, 2017 • Press Release

Bahrain: Human rights defender charged with terrorism

The Bahraini authorities’ decision to bring terrorism charges against Ebtissam al-Saegh, a human rights defender detained since July 3, 2017, is a chilling blow to human rights in the country, said Amnesty International.

July 12, 2017 • Press Release

Secretary Tillerson Visit to Gulf Must Not Greenlight More Abuses Against Human Rights Defenders

Today, Secretary Tillerson is meeting with senior foreign officials in Saudi Arabia. This is the latest leg of a week-long tour of the Gulf, and the meeting will include officials from Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. Tillerson is expected to discuss counterterrorism and security efforts. Amnesty International USA senior director of campaigns, Naureen Shah, issued this statement:

July 10, 2017 • Press Release

Bahrain: Jail term for human rights defender Nabeel Rajab exposes authorities’ relentless campaign to wipe out dissent

The sentencing of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, in his absence, to two years in prison for TV interviews is the latest shocking display of zero tolerance for freedom of expression by the Bahraini authorities, Amnesty International said today.

May 31, 2017 • Press Release

Bahrain heading for ‘total suppression’ of human rights as secular opposition group banned

Bahrain’s dissolution of a major political opposition society is the latest troubling move in its blatant campaign to end all criticism of the government, Amnesty International said.

March 30, 2017 • Press Release

Suspending Human Rights Restrictions on U.S. Arms Sale to Bahrain Sends Dangerous Message

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will reportedly lift human rights conditions on an arms sale to Bahrain, despite that country’s record of oppression against dissidents and participation in a Saudi-led coalition that has bombed thousands of civilians in Yemen...

December 12, 2016 • Press Release

Bahrain: Opposition leader condemned to nine years in prison following unfair and arbitrary verdict

A nine year prison sentence against the Bahraini opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, was upheld today by a Bahraini Appeal Court, after a retrial, in another blow to freedom of expression in the country

November 18, 2016 • Report

Window-dressing or pioneers of change? An assessment of Bahrain’s human rights oversight bodies

Five years after Bahrain’s 2011 uprising, which saw peaceful protesters beaten, shot, and killed in the streets, key reforms introduced to address human rights violations by the security forces have yet to deliver justice to the vast majority of victims and their families, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

October 25, 2016 • Press Release

Bahrain: Assault on freedom of expression continues as activists face jail for tweets

Bahraini authorities must immediately and unconditionally release human rights activist Nabeel Rajab and opposition leader Fadhel Abbas, two prisoners of conscience who are facing long prison sentences for using Twitter to voice concerns about human rights abuses in the conflict in Yemen, Amnesty International said today. Both men have criticized the killing of civilians in …