SALAM: Bahrain – A State of Human Rights Violations

Bahrain SALAM for Human Rights has conducted intensive research into the human rights situation in Bahrain to convey the main violations for the benefit of the concerned bodies in the UN Human Rights Council. This research considers an array of recent reports, articles, summaries, and news breaks from different independent and credible sources that were published after the landmark report and recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and ensuing promises of reform from the Bahrain authority.
The research starkly portrays the crises that have been allowed to unfold in Bahrain, for which the Bahraini authorities are directly and mainly responsible.
This investigation has been motivated by the desire to establish whether significant progress has been made in improving human rights in Bahrain in line with recommendations made by the UK parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee:
“If there is no significant progress by the start of 2014, the Government should designate Bahrain as a country of concern in its next human rights report.”
House of Commons – Foreign Affairs Committee, The UK’s Relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Fifth Report of Session 2013 – 2014, November 2013
SALAM considers seven key themes in an attempt to display the extent to which the Bahrain authorities have implemented and transgressed recommendations made by the BICI and the UN Universal Periodical Review (UPR) over 2 years ago. For each theme, we identify the source(s) discussing or reporting recent issues in Bahrain which demonstrate how promises made by the Bahrain government after the BICI and UPR recommendations have been broken.
It is important to note that the majority of the sources referenced in the report were published very recently, many in the past 6 months or year, providing concerned bodies with an up-to-date picture of the Bahrain authority’s violations.
The research uncovered a dire situation which has developed because recommendations of the BICI and UPR have not been implemented. This indicates clearly that the Bahrain authority has not, and seems not to desire any significant reform to end ongoing violations.
Bahrain SALAM concludes this research with four main recommendations addressed to the international community for the purpose of ensuring an end to Bahrain’s human rights crisis:
Establish a permanent office of the UN High Commissioner For Human Rights in Bahrain
Allow access of all concerned UN Special Rapporteurs to Bahrain immediately
Appoint a UN fact-finding mission to Bahrain
Adoption of a resolution on Bahrain by the UN Human Rights Council
Designate Bahrain as a country of concern in all nations human rights reports.
Bahrain SALAM believes that after 30 months of the BICI report and 24 months of the UPR recommendations, both shelved by the Bahrain authority, the international community will have to take urgent action to ensure the protection of human rights in Bahrain.
1. Absence of democracy
Bahrain’s political system across the spectrum lacks a democratic structure. The three powers – the executive, the judiciary, and the legislature – all overlap and are circumvented frequently by the Bahraini authorities, effectively centralising powers within one authority; the Bahrain authorities.
This state of affairs is well-established although recurrent talks and false promises of “reform” and “change” are bandied around often. The political landscape has remained in such a state since the new constitution of 2002, and bears no sign of changing to accommodate and incorporate a democratic system:
“Citizens do not have the right to change their government or their political system […] The king also has the power to amend the constitution and to propose, ratify, and promulgate laws.”
Embassy of United States – Bureau of Democracy, Humans Rights, and Labor 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice Report, February 2014
2. Complete disregard of human rights
The absence of any protection of human rights has resulted in a multitude of abuses and violations impinging a number of different rights. The following are some examples:
Curtailing freedom of expression:
“Bahrain’s human rights record regressed further in key areas in 2013 and the government made little real progress regarding reforms it claimed to pursue. Security forces continued to arrest scores of individuals arbitrarily in towns where anti-government protests regularly take place. Continuing reports of torture and ill-treatment in detention were consistent with the findings of the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).”
Human Rights Watch – Country Summary, January 2014
Restrictions on freedom of assembly:
“All demonstrations, marches, rallies, or sit-ins must now have the prior written permission of the head of state security, who can stipulate the number of permitted protesters and the time and pace of any protests.”
Humans Right Watch – Country Summary, January 2014
Restricted Religious Freedom:
“Bahrain has marked an unprecedented rise in religious hostility. Incidents of religious hostility were on a clear rise in all parts of Bahrain especially after the government deliberately demolished 38 Shia mosques, representing almost 5% of the registered mosques in the Ja’afari Directorate.
“The Government Restriction Index (GRI) results of the Government of Bahrain have confirmed systematic violations of human rights affiliated with religious beliefs and background, discrimination against religious groups, preferential treatment to certain religious groups and prohibition of religious worship rights for certain religious groups.”
The Religious Freedom Unit at the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, 25 January 2014
The targeting of non-governmental organisations, political activists, and human rights defenders:
“The GCHR and the BCHR urge the international community and especially the Bahrain government’s close allies to put pressure on the Bahraini government in order to:
– Immediately and unconditionally release Zaynab Al-Khawaja and all the other detained human rights defenders and the prisoners of conscience in Bahrain;
– Put an end to all sorts of harassments including the politicized trials against human rights defenders in Bahrain.”
The Use Of Politicized Judiciary in Bahrain Against Human Rights Activists –, 15 February 2014
“Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged the U.S. government to use the third anniversary of the Bahraini uprising to publicly push for the release of political prisoners […] Bahrain appears trapped in a cycle of protest and repression. In the last month, local human rights organizations report dozens of arrests in dawn raids by masked security officials.”
Human Rights First, 12 February 2014
3. Increase in frequency and degree of violations
The ruling family have shown a clear and apparent disregard to both the BICI and UPR recommendations, with so far no meaningful signs of the implementations alluded to below.
“1719. To adopt legislative measures requiring the Attorney-General to investigate claims of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to use independent forensic experts. Such procedures should guarantee the safety of those raising such claims. Furthermore, the legislation should provide remedies for any person claiming retribution for having raised a claim of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), 23 November 2011
“The [Bahrain] delegation repeated having accepted fully 145 recs. and in part 10. However, this is not consistent with the information contained in the addendum.”
UPR-info Recommendations and Pledges Second Review – Bahrain, 25 September 2012
4. Rejection of mechanisms prescribed by international human rights laws
The denial of access of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture:
“In this context, there is an urgent need for independent monitoring of the situation such as a visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. After agreeing to the visit of the Special Rapporteur in 2012, the Bahraini authorities have postponed that visit twice at very short notice, without providing an alternative date.”, 13 February 2014
The Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Juan Mendez, noted his concerns regarding the situation in Bahrain during his address to the United Nations Third Committee in New York in October 2013:
Extrajudicial killing:
“Bahrain’s authorities must come clean and open a full, independent investigation to establish the truth about the death of Fadel Abbas. Those responsible for his death must be held to account,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
Amnesty International, 27 January 2014
Unlawful detentions and home raids:
“Such police raids are not uncommon in Bahrain, which has been wracked by internal protests since February 2011.”
Human Rights Watch, 10 April 2013
Systematic torture:
“The growing number of reports of torture and ill-treatment in detention give rise to serious concerns that initial decreases seen immediately after the release of the BICI report are reversing, and that such torture and ill-treatment continues.”
Bahrain: Fundamental Reform or Torture Without End? Redress, April 2013
Impunity for torture:
“Bahrain Prime Minister guarantees impunity by thanking acquitted torturer”
ifex, 12 July 2013
“The culture of impunity identified in the BICI hasn’t been properly addressed, and this month has seen a new spate of torture allegations”
Human Rights First, July 2013
Nationality revocation:
“The High Commissioner regrets the decision taken by Bahraini authorities on 7 November to revoke the nationality of 31 citizens for “having undermined state security”. Such a decision may leave around 16 of them stateless. She urges the Government to reconsider this decision, which stands in clear violation of article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, “everyone has the right to a nationality” and, “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.”
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 23 November 2012
Excessive use of force:
“Gross human rights violations including excessive use of force against peaceful protesters, arbitrary detention and torture committed since 2011 have largely gone unpunished.”, 13 February 2014
Prevention of victims to seek medical help:
“There are immeasurable long-term consequences of these atrocities. For each doctor, nurse, or medic that the government disappears, many more civilians’ lives are impacted as patients go untreated.”
Physicians For Human Rights
The targeting of children:
“Scores of children arrested on suspicion of participating in anti-government protests – including some as young as 13 – were blindfolded, beaten and tortured in detention over the past two years the organization said. Others were threatened with rape in order to extract forced confessions.”
Amnesty International, 13 December 2013
The promotion of hatred and sectarian tension:
“In 2013, Shi’a Muslims continued to be detained and arrested arbitrarily, including during Ashura commemorations in November. Incendiary, sectarian rhetoric continued in the government and pro-government media, new media laws that would curb anti-Shi’a incitement have not been passed, and little has been done to ensure the Shi’a community greater media access.”
US Commission in International Religious Freedom Annual Report, 2014
5. Absence of an independent judiciary
Time and again the appointment of judges are based simply on their level of loyalty to the ruling family. Statistically, the Bahraini Shi’a majority currently represent only 10% of the judicial authority present in Bahrain.
Judges and prosecutors seem to be absolutely undermined and led by the whims of the ruling family. With that, lawyers find themselves in a weak position to exert any influence on any judgment.
“With tensions continuing between the opposition and the government, the Bahrain judiciary continues to be suspected of being neither independent or balanced. A former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture [Sir Nigel Rodley], told the BBC: “I agree with Cherif that the system as a whole finds dissent more dangerous than official criminality, and I see no sign that they have moved away from that position.”
Bahrain’s justice system under scrutiny – BBC, 30 January
“Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the king controls the judicial system.”
Embassy of United States – Bureau of Democracy, Humans Rights, and Labor 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practice Report, February 2014
6. Use of Mercenaries and External Armies
There has been for some time employment and incorporation of a disproportionate amount of expatriates into the security apparatuses and main forces.
Foreign forces have also been systematically employed to suppress citizens and any popular protest movements in Bahrain. These mercenary forces come from various countries, predominantly Saudi Arabia, UAE, Pakistan, Jordan, Yemen, and Sudan.
“The king of Bahrain is leading a 21-member delegation which includes his top defence and internal security chiefs. While, Pakistan considers the visit an opportunity to expand trade and investment links Bahrain, report suggest, appears more interested in bolstering defence ties with Pakistan.”
Trans Asian News, 2014
“[Bahrain Defence Force] It was established in 1997, and consists of about 2000 personnel, the majority of which consists of non-Bahraini personnel, recruited heavily from Pakistan along with a smaller percentage coming from neighbouring Arab countries, such as Yemen, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.” – Mercernaries in Bahrain: The cruel crackdown of the uprising, 29 April 2014
“…the intervention by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Bahrain in mid-March 2011. Three years later, foreign troops are still there, serving at the pleasure of King Hamad”
Al Jazeera report: Saudi and Emirati forces continue to police Bahrain
March 29, 2014
7. Ethnic Cleansing
Below are the four main attempts used to ethnically cleanse Bahrain:
1- The disproportionate naturalization solely used to alter the demographic make-up;
“More corrosively, the government has used naturalization of foreign residents as a political tactic to skew the country’s demographics.”
Muftah, 22 April 2014
“There was a lack of transparency in the naturalization process, and there were numerous reports that the citizenship law was not applied uniformly.”
2012 International Religious Freedom Report, Country Chapter for Bahrain- Embassy of the United States
2- Religious persecution of mainly Shia citizens;
“In 2013, Shi’a Muslims continued to be detained and arrested arbitrarily, including during Ashura commemorations in November. Incendiary, sectarian rhetoric continued in the government and pro-government media, new media laws that would curb anti-Shi’a incitement have not been passed, and little has been done to ensure the Shi’a community greater media access.”
US Commission in International Religious Freedom Annual Report, 2014
“I have expressed to the Government of Bahrain my grave concerns at what appears to be an act of religiously motivated discrimination, which would seem to impose unjustified restrictions on Mr Najati’s fundamental human rights, including his right to practice and profess peacefully his religious beliefs.”
UN News Centre, Independent UN human rights expert urges Bahrain to stop persecuting Shi’a Muslims, 24 April 2014
“Bahrain has marked an unprecedented rise in religious hostility. Incidents of religious hostility were on a clear rise in all parts of Bahrain.”
Bahrain Interfaith Center, 25 January 2014
3- Discrimination based on political and religious affiliations leading to vast amounts of dismissals, specifically in public services.
“After the eruption of the February 14 pro-democracy revolution in 2011, the Government of Bahrain dismissed more than 3000 from jobs, including: – 19 dismissed from Bahrain Petroleum Country (Bapco.) senior posts – 170 dismissed from senior posts in the Health Ministry – 55 dismissed from the Education Ministry – 6 dismissed from Gulf Air – 10 senior managers dismissed from Aluminium Bahrain (ALBA) – 20 dismissed from the University of Bahrain – 17 were dismissed from senior positions in Bahrain Training Institute in addition to 37 lower ranking employees.”
Al-Wefaq report on Authorities’ Systematic Sectarian Discrimination, January 2014
4- Sectarian cleansing:
“The government of Bahrain practices 3 levels of sectarianism today; sectarian discrimination, sectarian marginalization and sectarian cleansing. Today, governmental bodies adapt a strategy of cleansing organizations from Shia figures. A recent report presented by the Religious Freedom Unit at the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory to the United Nations Human Rights Council has revealed striking facts about the ongoing sectarian cleansing strategy in Bahrain”
Bahrain Interfaith Center, 19 February 2014

Reflections on Sectarianism in Bahrain