Bahrainis need to see their rights respected in everyday life, says human rights group
(New York) – Two years after the 2011 uprising in Bahrain, prisoners of conscience remain behind bars and activists continue to be jailed for their actions and views, whether social media or on peaceful marches, Amnesty International said in a new briefing today after visiting prisoners convicted and jailed in violation of their right to speak out.
Victims of state repression say justice remains elusive and restrictions are still in place despite recent institutional reforms. In recent weeks, Amnesty International conducted a mission to Bahrain where it met with seven prisoners of conscience detained in the remote Jaw prison, located south of the capital Manama. All of them reported they had been jailed on false charges or under laws that repress basic rights.
“The government of Bahrain cannot carry on imprisoning people simply because it can’t take criticism,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program deputy director. “It’s time that people detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression be released and for the harassment of other activists to desist. Bahrain risks creating nothing more than a bureaucracy of human rights if changes are not matched by a genuine political will to reform – Bahrainis need to see their rights respected in everyday life.”
Mahdi’ Issa Mahdi Abu Deeb, a teachers’ union leader who has been in jail since his arrest in 2011, told Amnesty: “As for the charges against me and Jalila [Jalila al- Salman, a fellow teachers’ union leader and mother of three], no one thinks they are right: we did not call for the fall of the regime – we are people in the education system.”
In a series of meetings with government officials, Amnesty International urged Bahrain authorities to release all prisoners of conscience, lift restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly and bring those who committed human rights abuses against protestors to justice.
“No convincing evidence had been submitted to justify these convictions,” said Hadj Sahraoui. “It appears that all of those involved were targeted for their anti-government views and for having participated in peaceful protests.”
Many of the prisoners of conscience were allegedly tortured in the first weeks of arrests and others complained about the medical treatment they are receiving. Hassan Mshaima’ said: “It is harassment as when I go to the hospital for treatment that last up to six hours, my face is covered and cannot see the doctor or the medical staff.”
“Many of the allegations put forward by the prisoners of conscience have still not been investigated by the authorities,” said Hadj Sahraoui. “The question remains whether the government will ensure justice is served and uphold the rights of the people.”
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.