From Amnesty International:
13 February 2014
Bahrain: Fears of violent crackdown ahead of third anniversary protests
There are fears that the Bahraini authorities may use violence to quash planned demonstrations on 14 February, said Amnesty International, when thousands are expected to take to the streets to mark the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising.
“The authorities’ relentless repression of dissent continues unabated – with security forces repeatedly using excessive force to quash anti-government protests,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Scores of people, including dozens of children have been detained for participating in peaceful protests over the last year. Many of them alleged that they were tortured in detention. Protesters must be allowed to take part in peaceful demonstrations without the fear of reprisal or attack”.
In the three years since the authorities crushed the mass demonstrations of 2011, the human rights situation in Bahrain has continued to deteriorate. Prominent human rights defenders and opposition activists have been rounded up, in many cases merely for calling for peaceful anti-government protests.
“Bahrain has witnessed a continuous downward spiral of repression over the past three years, with the space for freedom of expression and assembly rapidly reducing,” said Said Boumedouha.
“The authorities are losing credibility. Repeated promises of reform have been broken. Until concrete steps are taken to show they are serious about respecting its international obligations, it is unlikely Bahrain will make genuine progress on human rights”.
As yet, the authorities have failed to implement key recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011.
Among several children who have been detained for participating in demonstrations in the past year are 10-year-old Jehad Nabeel al-Samee’ and 13-year-old ‘Abdullah Yousif al-Bahrani, who were arrested by riot police on 16 December 2013 during a rally outside Manama. They were charged with “illegal gathering and rioting” and “attacking a police patrol with stones”.
‘Abdullah said that he was beaten, threatened with electric shocks and forced to sign a “confession”. He denied taking part in the march or throwing stones at the police. The boys have been released but will remain under supervision until a verdict is issued in their case.
Ahmad Fardan, a Bahraini photojournalist, was arrested during a raid on his home west of Manama on 26 December 2013. He has been charged with “participating in a public gathering” after attempting to cover a demonstration in the village of Abu Saiba’ as a photographer. He was slapped on the face, and beaten including on his genitals while in custody. Medical examinations revealed he also sustained two broken ribs.
Last week, a two year prison sentenced was upheld against Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights defender, for his participation in “illegal gatherings” and for “disturbing public order” between February and March 2012. Another activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to four months in prison last month for “destroying government property” after she ripped a picture of the King of Bahrain. She has been in prison serving different sentences for different court cases since February 2013.
Amnesty International believes that both Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja are prisoners of conscience who have been targeted for their human rights work and is calling for them to be immediately and unconditionally released.
Amnesty International continues to receive reports of torture in detention centres in Bahrain.
“The anniversary’s protests are a test for the authorities to demonstrate internationally that they are committed to protecting human rights. They must allow the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, association and assembly and release all prisoners of conscience,” said Said Boumedouha.
Clashes with police have marked the third anniversary of the Bahrain uprising that had seen numerous human rights violations by the government and wide social discontent of the majority Shia population with the minority ruling Sunni monarchy: here.
Bahrain’s PR sheen can’t hide abuse allegations: here.
Three years after Bahrain joined the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East, human rights defenders are left wondering when the Obama Administration will put action behind its flamboyant 2011 rhetoric about rights, freedom and the rule of law: here.
Bahrainis mark the third anniversary of the pro-reform protest movement which came to be known as the 14 February Coalition, human rights violations continue unabated in the country. While many countries have been quite vocal in condemning atrocities committed against protesters in some countries in the Middle East, when it comes to Bahrain, calls from the West for an end to human rights abuses perpetrated by the Bahraini authorities have been rather muted. The irony is that when similar atrocities were committed in Libya, Egypt and most recently Syria, Western countries and especially the US and UK, heavily criticised the regimes in those countries for using brute force to counter peaceful protests, and for reigning in citizens for expressing their views. Some 122 Bahrainis have since died from torture, lung infections caused by tear gas, and from live ammunition used by the Bahraini security forces. 1,300 Bahrainis have been arrested in connection with their role in the protests and those still in detention have been tortured and denied access to medical care. Hospital doctors and nurses are harassed for treating victims of the protests. Thousands of workers have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs for taking part in the demonstrations: here.
The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) express their deep concern for the on-going targeting of the detained activist and human rights defender Zaynab Al-Khawaja by the Bahraini authorities who continue their efforts to fabricate new charges and issuing new sentences that aim at extending her detention period in prison and preventing her from exercising her peaceful work in the field of human rights: here.