24 January 2012 – Tunis/London – A report from a six-member mission of international organisations to Bahrain last November called out Bahraini authorities for failing to deliver on promises of reform, despite a highly-touted commission of inquiry which made numerous recommendations. Rights violations continue on a daily basis, and people are still jailed on long sentences, including prominent human rights activists jailed for life. Yet the world has not been paying attention to this forgotten country during a year of turmoil in the region.
The report, “Justice Denied in Bahrain: Freedom of Expression and Assembly Curtailed”, outlines violations of human rights related to the authorities’ handling of protests and demonstrations in the country since February 2011. The report details meetings with human rights defenders, lawyers, writers, artists, journalists, government officials and foreign diplomats and provides insight into how the government continues to punish and prosecute individuals for expressing their opinions and protesting ongoing repression.
“In the middle of the successive events that occur in the region we must not lose sight of the Bahraini people’s plight. We should deal with what’s happening in Bahrain as a peaceful uprising asking for dignity and human rights, not in the framework of sectarian conflict,” said Mina Mamdouh, Researcher at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.
With the publication of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report at the end of November (witnessed by the mission) and the deadline of February 2012 for a national commission to make recommendations for reform, expectations have been raised that there will be change in Bahrain. However, as the report indicates and as the mission members witnessed – and continue to monitor –the reality on the ground in Bahrain remains unchanged. Human rights activists, doctors, teachers, union members, political figures, journalists, bloggers and others continue to face harassment, prosecution and imprisonment despite the use of torture and unfair trials against them. Protests continue on an almost daily basis, and the security forces response is virtually unchanged since before the publication of the BICI report.
“It seems that despite the BICI report’s extensive catalogue of abuses against Bahraini citizens including torture, and a clear condemnation of the culture of impunity, the government of Bahrain is intent on maintaining the status quo. We are not seeing the immediate release of prisoners. Instead there is an interminable succession of postponed trials,” said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International.
The 11 recommendations made in the report, “Justice Denied in Bahrain: Freedom of Expression and Assembly Curtailed”, include calls to end the harassment, imprisonment and prosecution of Bahraini citizens for what essentially amount to persecution of free expression and legitimate human rights work. In line with the BICI report, which was accepted by the government of Bahrain, the international mission report also insists on accountability for those responsible for violating international human rights norms, in particular those responsible for torture and killing.
The full international mission report, “Justice Denied in Bahrain: Freedom of Expression and Assembly Curtailed”, is online (PDF).
The mission team was composed of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Front Line Defenders, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Index on Censorship, International Media Support (IMS) and the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International, and was supported by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX).
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