The new report published Thursday by Amnesty International sheds light on the repressive tactics used by the Bahraini regime over the past year to crush civil society and violently crack down on protests, leading to the deaths of six people, including one child.
“The failure of the UK, USA and other countries that have leverage over Bahrain to speak out in the face of the disastrous decline in human rights in the country over the past year has effectively emboldened the government to intensify its endeavor to silence the few remaining voices of dissent,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. The two countries have a particularly high level of influence in Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is based and where Britain’s Royal Navy has a major facility.
The report titled ‘No one can protect you’: Bahrain’s Year of Crushing Dissent documents how, between June 2016 and June 2017, at least 169 government critics or their relatives were arrested, tortured, threatened or banned from travel by the authorities.
The west-backed Al Khalifa regime has stepped up a crackdown on critics, shutting down two main political groups, revoking the citizenship of the Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim spiritual leader of the majority Shiite Muslim community and jailing rights campaigners.
In July, a Bahraini court sentenced rights campaigner and prominent activist Nabeel Rajab to two years in jail for allegedly making “false or malicious” statements about Bahraini authorities. Rajab is facing another trial and risks a further 15 years in prison for tweeting.
Between June 2016 and June 2017, Amnesty International received reports of nine cases of government critics being tortured in detention, eight of them in May 2017 alone.
Taking away humanity
Human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh was one of them. Ebtisam told Amnesty International that on 26 May she was blindfolded, sexually assaulted, beaten and kept standing for most of the seven hours she was being interrogated by the National Security Agency (NSA). “They took away my humanity”, she said.
“We have heard horrific allegations of torture in Bahrain. They must be promptly and effectively investigated and those responsible brought to justice,” said Philip Luther.
Amnesty International is calling for the Bahraini authorities to allow access to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture, as well as to international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, to monitor the deteriorating human rights situation.
The rights body noted that, “The outlook for human rights in Bahrain looks bleak if the authorities continue this crackdown unchecked. They should start by immediately reining in their security forces, releasing prisoners of conscience and allowing banned civil society organizations to operate again. They should also make sure that those who have been subjected to torture and other serious violations are delivered justice.”
Anti-regime protests have been held in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular Islamic Awakening uprising began in the country in 2011. The Al Khalifa regime has used an iron fist to silence dissent.