Human rights activists at side event on torture and reprisals in Bahrain stress need for UN mechanisms to take action and support for victims

25.03.17

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) hosted a side event entitled “Torture, Physical Coercion and Reprisals in Bahrain” during the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 22 March 2017. The event was held in co-operation with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Nursing Society (BNS).

During introductory remarks by Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR Executive Director, called upon the international community “to urgently address the systematic use of torture and reprisals against Bahraini human rights defenders.”

Torture survivor and Secretary General of the BNS Ebrahim Al-Demestani spoke about his own experience at the hands of the Bahraini security services and denounced the lack of recognition and redress for Bahraini victims and survivors of torture. A video was also screened which showed the extreme violations of the principle of medical neutrality, as well as violent assaults and targeting of health professionals who treated protesters. Click here for the video.

Julie Gromellon, BCHR Advocacy Director, conveyed messages about the need of accountability for the continuing use of torture and reprisals against political prisoners and activists, including Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, founders of both BCHR and GCHR. Rajab was in court the same day of the event, and both men remain in prison.

Then U.S. human rights lawyer Charles Shotwell, of Dorsey & Whitney LLP, outlined the contents of the newly released GCHR report on Bahrain, focusing on the continuing pattern of state use of torture; the targeting of human rights defenders, journalists, and medical personnel for reprisals; the stifling of the reporting of human rights violations through overly broad “terror” and “security” laws; the denial of basic due process rights for defendants; the refusal of the judiciary and “oversight” bodies to investigate allegations of torture-induced confessions; and the apparent impunity for officials accused of torture and other human rights violations. He reiterated the recommendations of the report, in particular the need to appoint a new Special Commission of independent and impartial investigators for the purpose of uncovering the truth about allegations of government misconduct and for the purpose of fostering national reconciliation. The report can be found here: https://www.gc4hr.org/report/view/65

Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary-General, noted that reprisals are a symptom of cutting ties with international bodies and NGO-expressed concern about Bahrain’s constitutional amendment which will allow military courts to try civilians.

The side event, which was attended by various stakeholders, then concluded with a round of questions and answers.