12am, Palais des Nations, Room XXVII
Panelists gathered in Geneva on March 1st, 2018 to discuss human rights violations in Bahrain. SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights took part in this event, organized by the Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture. Human rights defender Tara O’Grady chaired the panel, which featured the following speakers : Ghassan Khamis from the Gulf Institute for Human Rights, Mohamed Safa from the Khiam Rehabilitation Centre, Ahmed Omar from the International Center for supporting Rights & Freedoms and torture victim Yunes Sultan.
The event aimed to raise awareness on the practice of torture particularly in Bahrain during the year of 2017. Yunes Sultan shared his personal story by recounting the sexual and verbal abuse he suffered from at the hands of Bahraini authorities, after being arrested for no valid reason or mandate. He delivered an emotional testimony and recalled the trauma and humiliation he endured when he was slapped, stripped down and sexually assaulted by police forces : “I was begging them to stop, they didn’t. I reached a point where I wasn’t even physically able to speak anymore (…) I couldn’t talk about it for days, not even to my wife”.
A short film was also played to the audience, bringing attention to other ongoing human rights violations perpetrated by the Bahrini government. One of them was the limitation placed freedom of speech, notably through restrictions placed on people from expressing their opinions in the media or online. Restrictions on freedom of belief and religion were also mentioned, with Shia leaders being persecuted and imprisoned by authorities.
The event was an overall success and was covered by the media. Still, it highlighted that while Yunes’ story is heartbreaking, it is unfortunately far from being unique. Torture, sexual abuse and intimidation continue to remain an important problem in Bahrain.