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Routine Abuse, Routine Denial: Civil Rights and the Political Crisis in Bahrain

NCJ Number
J Stork
Date Published
112 pages
This report cites human rights abuses in Bahrain in the areas of law enforcement and the administration of justice as well as the broad denial of fundamental political rights and civil liberties.
Material for this report was collected by Human Rights Watch/Middle East between March 1996 and February 1997. Although the government of Bahrain rejected the request by Human Rights Watch to send an official information-gathering mission to the country, Human Rights Watch representatives did visit Bahrain briefly nonetheless, where they met with defense lawyers and persons who had been detained by the authorities, as well as prominent persons in various professions and in business. Human Rights Watch representatives also met with Bahrainis living in exile. Abuses in the area of law enforcement and administration of justice encompass the behavior of security forces toward those under arrest and detention as well as those involved in civil disturbances. Other abuses in this area include arbitrary detention, physical and psychological abuse of detainees, denial of access to legal counsel, and denial of the right to a swift and impartial judicial hearing. The broad denial of fundamental political rights and civil liberties encompasses freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, and the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs. In terms of numbers of people affected, the situation has been particularly acute since the end of 1994, with the onset of a period of protracted civil unrest that has continued into the spring of 1997. This unrest has increasingly assumed the character of a sectarian conflict between the majority Shi'a population and the Sunni ruling family and military-political establishment. Human Rights Watch calls on the government of Bahrain to repeal all laws and decrees that unduly restrict the ability of Bahraini citizens to exercise peacefully their rights to freedom of assembly, association, and expression. Human Rights Watch also urges an end to the practice of detaining people for unlimited or extended periods without charge and an end to the practice of interrogating detainees without allowing access to legal counsel. Appended Human Rights Watch letter to the government of Bahrain