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Fri 3 Feb 2017 01:29 AM

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Bahrain criticised for restoring arrest powers to intelligence agency

Human Rights Watch says decision is 'another nail in the coffin for Bahrain’s post-2011 reform process'

Bahrain criticised for restoring arrest powers to intelligence agency

Bahrain has restored arrest and investigatory powers to an intelligence agency that conducted house raids and systematically tortured detainees in 2011, Human Rights Watch has claimed.

The rights group said in a statement that the decision to grant Bahrain’s National Security Agency (NSA) the power to arrest and detain people suspected of terrorist offences reverses one of the few significant security sector reforms introduced after 2011.

Authorities published the decree restoring the NSA’s powers on January 5, four days after 10 inmates broke out of Jaw prison. The decision restores powers rescinded by a royal decree in November 2011.

“Returning arrest powers to an intelligence agency that terrorised families and tortured detainees is yet another nail in the coffin for Bahrain’s post-2011 reform process,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“Detainees will not be safe in NSA custody and Bahrain’s oversight mechanisms are no guarantee of protection.”

According to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, the NSA arrested 179 people after the anti-government protests of February 2011. The commission said that NSA officers were among groups of hooded, armed security forces who engaged in “terror-inspiring behaviour”.

Human Rights Watch said the investigation determined that the death in April 2011 of Abd al-Karim Ali Ahmed Fakhrawi, a businessman and founder of the independent newspaper Al-Wasat, was attributable to torture in the security agency’s custody.

Bahrain’s senior advocate general, Ahmed al-Dossary, said that the decision to restore the agency’s powers was made "in view of the high risk of terror crimes, which necessitates prompt action to thwart plots, halt their impact, gather evidence, and arrest the culprits".

Human Rights Watch said NSA detainees will fall under the oversight of the agency’s ombudsman, which was set up by a Royal Decree in 2012 with the authority to investigate complaints relating to ill-treatment by agency staff.