By Andy Sambidge
New report urges Bahraini gov't response to unrest has failed to provide justice to victims
The Bahraini government’s response to the findings of an international commission of inquiry has proved inadequate as human rights violations continue, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
Its 58-page report claims that piecemeal reforms have failed to provide justice for the victims of human rights violations despite the government’s insistence that it will learn from the events of February and March 2011.
Following the November report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), Amnesty said it has found that despite some institutional and other reforms, the government's overall response has been "inadequate".
Amnesty is calling on the Bahraini government to "immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and to ensure that those suspected of torturing and killing, including those with command responsibility, are held accountable".
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa, said:“With the world’s eyes on Bahrain as it prepares to host the Grand Prix, no-one should be under any illusions that the country’s human rights crisis is over.
“The authorities are trying to portray the country as being on the road to reform, but we continue to receive reports of torture and use of unnecessary and excessive force against protests. Their reforms have only scratched the surface."
Sahraoui added: “The government's huge financial investment in international experts to help them reform will go to waste unless it shows real political will to take difficult decisions - in particular, holding to account senior members of the security forces accused of violations, releasing prisoners of conscience and addressing the underlying discrimination against the Shi’a majority population.
“The establishment of the BICI was a real breakthrough and raised expectations that things would be different in Bahrain. It is time for the Bahraini government to match its public pronouncements with genuine actions.”
Amnesty claimed no senior members of the security forces, including the National Security Agency and Bahrain Defence Force, have been held to account for violations against protesters.
A number of security officers accused of being responsible for torture during last year’s protests are believed to still be in their posts without having been investigated, it added.
Amnesty's report also said that scores of prisoners, tried unfairly in military courts and sentenced to long-term prison sentences, have not been released.
In December, Bahrain’s Public Prosecutor ordered that all charges related to freedom of expression should be dropped but Amnesty said very few detainees have benefited from this measure.
The report said that in total, at least 60 people have now been killed in connection with protests since February 2011.
If you focus on the headlines and the attention-grabbing timing of Amnesty Internationalâ€™s latest Bahrain report, it appears damning. However, when you actually read the substance of the report it tells a somewhat different story.
Amnesty credits the Bahraini authorities with important reforms over recent months, including:
â€¢\tA new code of conduct for the security services, explicitly prohibiting torture.
â€¢\tAn office in the Ministry of the Interior dedicated to investigating complaints against the police
â€¢\tHuman rights training for police officers
There is criticism for â€œexcessive use of tear gasâ€; is the use of tear gas not preferable to either armed rioters being in a position to maim and kill security forces; or security forces being armed with more lethal weapons, as weâ€™ve seen in Syria?
Amnestyâ€™s acknowledgement of the liberal use of Molotov cocktails by the opposition to injure or kill security forces is welcome; but it is a shame that this had to be buried deep in the report.