Bahraini government has been brutally cracking down on dissents over the past year, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
The UK-based watchdog published a new report that sheds light on the repressive tactics used by the Bahraini government over the past year to crush civil society and violently crack down on protests.
The repressive tactics led to the deaths of six people, including one child, according to the report titled “No one can protect you’: Bahrain’s year of crushing dissent”.
Between June 2016 and June 2017, at least 169 government critics or their relatives were arrested, tortured, threatened or banned from travel by the authorities, the report said.
“Using an array of tools of repression, including harassment, arbitrary detention and torture, the government of Bahrain has managed to crush a formerly thriving civil society and reduced it to a few lone voices who still dare to speak out,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The majority of peaceful critics, whether they are human rights defenders or political activists, now feel the risks of expressing their views have become too high in Bahrain.”
Since mid-2016, the Bahraini authorities have embarked on a systematic campaign to eliminate freedom of speech in the country. The main targets of this far-reaching repression have been human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, political activists, Shi’a clerics and peaceful protesters. Activists living outside the country have also faced harassment and intimidation the report said.
Prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who is president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, is one of the most targeted human rights defenders in Bahrain. He remains behind bars as a prisoner of conscience after being sentenced to two years in jail for media interviews he gave, and he faces a further 15 years in jail, simply for tweeting, Amnesty added.
Between June 2016 and June 2017, Amnesty International received reports of nine cases of government critics being tortured in detention, eight of them in May 2017 alone.
Human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh was one of them. Ebtisam told Amnesty International that on 26 May she was blindfolded, sexually assaulted, beaten and kept standing for most of the seven hours she was being interrogated by the National Security Agency (NSA).
“They took away my humanity”, Amnesty quoted Saegh as saying.
“We have heard horrific allegations of torture in Bahrain. They must be promptly and effectively investigated and those responsible brought to justice,” said Philip Luther.
During that one-year period, the Bahraini government also launched an all-out campaign to dismantle Bahrain’s political opposition, dissolving al-Wefaq, the main opposition group, and Waad, a secular opposition political party, on unfounded charges. Political leaders and members of opposition groups continued to be imprisoned or otherwise targeted; and in May 2017 the authorities stepped up their attempts to silence political activists by detaining them for interrogation, during which some reported they were threatened, tortured or otherwise ill-treated.
Meanwhile, Amnesty slammed several countries, including US and UK for their silence over documents of repression in Bahrain.
“Despite the worsening situation, and blatant human rights violations being perpetrated in Bahrain, most governments have remained silent or toned down their public criticism. Among them are the UK and USA, two countries with a particularly high level of influence in Bahrain,” the watchdog said.
“The failure of the UK, USA and other countries that have leverage over Bahrain to speak out in the face of the disastrous decline in human rights in the country over the past year has effectively emboldened the government to intensify its endeavour to silence the few remaining voices of dissent,” Amnesty added.
Source: Amnesty International