Bahrain: Torture is the Policy and Impunity is the Norm

09.03.21

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I.   Introduction

Bahrain has witnessed several uprisings throughout its contemporary history. Since before its independence, different popular movements have sought the same goal; a democratic society with equal rights. These peaceful movements have been faced with force and resulted in increased repression. The last popular movement of February 2011 was no different. 

From the first day of the 2011 popular movement, the Bahraini government chose to resort to force to end the peaceful demonstrations. Many protesters were killed because of the security forces’ brutality, either on the streets or under torture in the detention centres. Local and international reports have documented hundreds of cases of torture and ill-treatment. The UN concerned bodies and different international organisations have called on the Bahraini government to address the violations and end impunity. Almost a decade has passed since 14 February 2011, and nothing has changed.

Under international law, Bahrain has an obligation to address torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment. Although, since 2011, Bahrain has introduced several reforms to address illegal practices committed by its security forces, torture is widespread and systematic. According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)’s documentation, almost every person who has been arrested as a result of the 2011 popular movement was subjected to different levels of ill-treatment during arrest, interrogation, pretrial detention, or in prison. 

The security forces tortured detainees either to extract confessions or as a punishment for participating in the peaceful protests. Different types of physical and psychological torture were committed against detainees in different police stations, security apparatus' premises, detention centres, and prisons. 

The security forces have not spared prominent opposition figures and civil society activists from torture and degrading treatment. This report details the cases of 24 opposition figures and civil society activists, in addition to dozens of cases of convicted political prisoners. 

The Bahraini law prohibits torture and stipulates life imprisonment for those who commit torture that leads to death. Despite thousands of torture cases, convictions for perpetrators have been low with light prison sentences, even if torture has led to death. In Bahrain, impunity seems the norm. The government has not taken any serious and effective steps to end either torture or impunity. Therefore, it appears that the reforms undertaken by the government are misleading, as there is no genuine intention to stop the violations committed against detainees, who are punished for the exercise of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and association, guaranteed by all international human rights conventions.

 

II.   Methodology and Resources 

This report was written and researched by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) in cooperation with the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) through a project funded by the European Union to address torture and accountability in the Gulf region.

The report presents some cases and testimonies documented by BCHR and several partners.

Most of the information included in this report has already been published by investigations, news, and reports on this matter. BCHR backed its research with documents that included: 

●      United Nations human rights texts, treaties and conventions, and bodies’ reports; monitoring human rights situation in Bahrain, especially the Committee against Torture (CAT).

●      Reports published by local and international partners.

●      Official state reports.

●      The report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). 

●      Documentation, photos, and video recordings, whether they were publicly posted on the internet or in the possession of BCHR.

●      Interviews with torture survivors and witnesses.

It is important though to draw attention to the fact that this was not easy whatsoever to interview survivors of torture, because the majority refused to speak out of fear of retaliation. Therefore, BCHR decided to keep the identities of some survivors anonymous unless they gave permission.

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