Human rights violations must end in order to create a platform for a dialogue.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern about the ongoing violations despite the announcement of a new dialogue led by Crown Prince Salman Alkhalifa. Salman Alkhalifa met with AlWefaq opposition society on the 14th of January 2014 to discuss the possibility of initiating a new National Dialogue between the government and representatives of the opposition.
The BCHR reiterates that in order for any dialogue to be successful, the Government of Bahrain must end the ongoing human rights violations to create the platform for the dialogue, and for the dialogue to have any chance at succeeding. Unfortunately this has not been the case.
Since the 14th of January 2014, and until today, the BCHR has documented 117 arbitary arrests. Of those arbitary arrests, 46 of them were during house raids carried out by masked security forces in civilian clothing. Amongst those arrested, at least 5 were children and 3 were women.
Furthermore, since the 14th of January 2014, dozens of civilians were sentenced to more than 350 years imprisonment in cases that were politically motivated, were not in line with international standards to fair and independent trials, and lacked due process.
In regards to torture complaints, since the 14th of January 2014, the BCHR received tens of complaints from families about their loved ones being subjected to torture in order to extract confessions. The BCHR also received more than 6 complaints about civilians subjected to enforced disappearance, which is when it is most likely for torture to occur. One example of this is Ahmed AlArab, a 22 year old nursing student who was arrested on 9 January 2014 and was subjected to enforced disappearance for 21 days. He was then moved to Jaw prison despite not being convicted in any cases. AlArab’s family told the BCHR that he was subjected to various types of torture during his enforced disappearance, including hanging for long periods and deprivation of sleep for at least five days.
Since the 14th of January 2014, at least 4 defendants were kicked out of the courtroom during their own hearing after reporting to the judge that the public prosecutor present in the courtroom took part in their torture to extract confessions. One example of this is the case of Sajjad AlAlawi who was kicked out of the courtroom on 28 January 2014 then charged with contempt for reporting that the public prosecutor had taken part in forcing him to confess to false charges.
Fadhel Abbas Muslim, 19 years old, and two of his friends were subjected to violent arrest. They were reportedly chased by security forces who opened fire on them, injuring two including Muslim. No information pertaining the whereabouts and wellbeing of Muslim was provided to his family for more than two weeks. On 26 January, the Ministry of Interior announced him dead. The injuries the deceased suffered from clearly indicate that he was shot from behind, which does not corroborate the claim of self-defense made by the Ministry.
In addition to the abovementioned violations, the BCHR documented dozens of injuries; at least 3 of them were serious. Security forces continue to use indiscriminate excessive force against protesters, in one case injuring a 12 year old boy in the face with pellets while he was looking out from his home window.
The BCHR also published a report on the continuation of abductions and severe beatings as a tool to create fear and prevent protests, especially in the villages. The report documented 3 sample cases of abductions since the 14th of January.
The President of the United States, Barack Obama, stated in May 2011:
“The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.“
Those mentioned in Obama’s speech continue to be imprisoned, along with thousands of other political prisoners. If the government of Bahrain is to be taken seriously about initiating a political dialogue, they must:
- Release all political prisoners, especially those who should be taking part in any dialogue.
- Immediately stop the indiscriminate excessive use of force, and allow people the right to practice their right to free expression and assembly.
- Drop all politically motivated charges against civilians targeted for participating in the pro-democracy protests.
- The immediate withdrawal of all remaining Saudi and UAE forces deployed in Bahrain.
- Initiate a process of accountability for those involved in serious human rights violations against civilians in Bahrain, especially those with administrative responsibility. This would include but not limited to accountability for:
- Extrajudicial killings
- Systematic torture
- Enforced disappearances
- Systematic indiscriminate excessive use of force against protesters
- Unfair trials and use of confessions extracted under torture
It is important to note that the BCHR included Crown Prince Salman Alkhalifa as an individual who is “Wanted for Justice” due to allegations made against him for having administrative responsibility for certain human rights violations that have occurred over the past three years. The BCHR has called for anneutral and independent investigation into these allegations, and a fair and independent trial according to international standards for Salman Alkhalifa.
Based on all of the above, the BCHR concludes that the Government in Bahrain has not displayed any intention of creating an environment which can allow a dialogue to succeed. As long as widespread, grave human rights violations continue to occur on an almost daily basis, this will create more distrust between the public and the government, thus condemning any dialogue to imminent failure.
The BCHR also reiterates that basic civil and human rights are NOT to be used as a bargaining chip between the government representatives and the opposition. These are rights guaranteed to every citizen and resident of Bahrain, and cannot be negotiated.