HRW says Bahrain reportedly tortures inmates

According to Human Rights Watch report, Bahraini inmates were tortured in state prisons following 2011 protests

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa (C) attends the final session of the South American-Arab Countries summit, in Riyadh November 11, 2015.

Bahrain's security forces are accused of torturing detainees in the years following the 2011 protests, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on Monday.

Even though the Bahraini government had previously promised to stop such abuses, Bahrain's government said the country "is unequivocally opposed to mistreatment of any kind," in statement given to the Associated Press.

Based on testimony offered by 14 people, the HRW report describes being physically assaulted while in police or security service custody. Types of torture in the report include electric shocks, sexual abuse, and being hung in painful positions and being exposed to extreme cold.

Bahraini government had vowed to grant "no immunity" for anyone suspected of abuses in 2011, when the king has thoroughly listened to a report issued by a government investigator saying security forces used torture and excessive force to repress the protests. Consequently the government back then said 73 security force members — "including high-ranking officers" — have been "transferred to courts on charges of mistreatment."

However the HRW report says Bahraini citizens endure systematic torture, in addition to having their nationalities stripped if the government found any links to Iran.

"There have been few prosecutions for abuses relating to the serious and widespread abuses that (the investigators) documented" in 2011, the report said. "The few that have resulted have, almost exclusively, involved low-ranking officers, and have — without exception — resulted in acquittals or disproportionately light sentences."

Bahrain, home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet, have had its name accompanied by such accusations in the wake of the Arab spring, when Amnesty International and local activists repeatedly reported such violations.

Iran is seen by the Sunni led kingdom of Bahrain and most Arab Gulf countries as a regional rival, the Shiite republic is also a steady ally of Syrian regime head Bashar el Assad, whom Arab gulf countries no longer see as legitimate.

Although Bahrain is a majority Shiite country, the Bahraini leadership is exclusively monopolised by a Sunni monarchy. A leadership that successfully repressed a possible uprising in 2011, backed by security forces from nearby Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Bahrain blames Iran for being behind the 2011 protests, and currently, police raids continue to capture explosives and weapons said to be smuggled from Iran.

"Western diplomats and security agencies have verified these facts, and the successful interception of explosive materials recently was due to intelligence received from Western allies," the statement said without elaborating.

Most recently, Bahraini criminal court sentenced 12 people for life in prison on November 16, in addition to revoking their citizenship, after finding them guilty of carrying out bomb attacks on police checkpoints, a senior judicial official said in a statement late on Sunday.

According to HRW, at least 199 people have lost their citizenship as "a punitive measure against dissidents."

TRTWorld and agencies