HRW: No Progress on Reform in Bahrain
The Human Rights Watch mentioned in a statement it released on Thursday that all the talk of national dialogue and reform mean nothing so long as the country’s most prominent human rights and political activists remain unjustly imprisoned while officials responsible for torture and murder remain in their positions.
In a conference held in Manama, the Human Rights Watch organization slammed Bahrain’s rulers who have made no progress on key reform promises, “failing to release unjustly imprisoned activists or to hold accountable high-level officials responsible for torture.”
During a five-day visit, three representatives of the HRW met with the Bahraini interior minister, Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa; The attorney general, Dr. Ali Fadl al-Buainain; Nawaf Abdulla Hamza, head of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) responsible for investigating police excesses and command responsibility; Chief of public security, Maj. Gen. Tariq Hassan; John Timoney, senior police adviser to the Interior Ministry, and representatives of the Social Development and Human Rights ministries.
“Human Rights Watch concluded, based on the discussions with officials, that authorities have made no progress in investigating and prosecuting higher-level officials responsible for the worst abuses during the 2011 protests. The abuses resulted in the death of scores of protesters and bystanders, serious injuries to hundreds of people, arrests of thousands more, and more than 300 formal allegations of torture and ill-treatment,” the statement reported.
“How can any Bahraini citizen believe promises of police overhaul when those responsible for grievous policing failures are still setting policies and able to undermine possible investigations into their roles?”
On February 26, Human Rights Watch visited several of the political and human rights activists, medics, and teachers serving sentences ranging from two years to life in Jaw Prison and met with them privately.
“On January 7, the Court of Cassation upheld the convictions and lengthy prison terms of 13 prominent dissidents, including sentences of life in prison for seven defendants, solely for exercising their rights to free expression and peaceful assembly in the 2011 protests,” the statement further mentioned.
“Bahrain authorities should amend the laws that gave rise to the unjust sentences against these men. King Hamad should pardon and expunge the criminal convictions of all those whose sentences the Court of Cassation has upheld,” HRW demanded.
Moreover, HRW expressed grave concern about a draft law to regulate nongovernmental organizations that the Social Development Ministry submitted to the government and that is now under consideration by the Parliament. The draft law would effectively convert every association registered or seeking to register – as required – into a government-controlled entity with no capacity to operate as an independent body.
“The law would forbid citizens from being members of more than one group doing similar work, unless the ministry approves, and would prohibit union members from joining a group that works on activities related to their union.”
“Effective community and prison policing requires a diverse police force that the Bahraini people can believe represents them,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch accentuated.
Source: HRW, edited by moqawama.org