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A United Nations report on trials and prosecutions in Bahrain

The opposition Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society submitted a report to the United Nations on trials and prosecutions in Bahrain.

The report was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which is concerned with following up on Bahrain’s commitment to civil and political rights.

In the report, the Association discussed wide-ranging violations, including constitutional amendments that prohibited political gatherings, dissolved and targeted opposition societies, prosecuted activists for exercising their freedom of opinion and expression, and applied political isolation to political associations and their members.

It emphasized that these amendments consolidated the influence of the executive authority at the expense of the legislative authority and granted the military judiciary the powers to try civilians, in clear violation of the recommendations and local international human rights laws and guarantees.

The Association documented 2,017 cases of arbitrary arrest related to the exercise of freedom of expression and assembly, including the case of the Secretary-General of the Al-Wefaq Society, the detainee of conscience, Sheikh Ali Salman.

The authorities used enforced disappearances and military trials as a means of intimidation and revenge against politicians. Until last February, the number of enforced disappearances until last February reached 439, 54 of them against children.

Al-Wefaq called on the United Nations to pressure the Bahraini government to take measures to protect civil and political rights, to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners, and stop prosecuting opinion activists.

Salam for Democracy and Human Rights also submitted a complaint to the United Nations regarding torture to extract confessions in the prisons of the ruling Khalifah regime in Bahrain.

The organization addressed the continued torture of detainees, especially in pretrial detention, to extract confessions and subject prisoners to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with complete impunity.

The Bahraini regime practices one of the most heinous torture practices and the crushing of human rights in the Gulf against its citizens who oppose or violate the regime’s policies.

The events of the Bahraini Spring in February 2011 revealed the fact that the Bahraini regime was indifferent to the principles of human rights and international laws in its confrontation with Bahraini citizens’ exercise of their right to demonstrate and express and demand democratic, economic and social reform in the country.

Human rights organizations highlight the severity of violations and patterns of torture in the Kingdom of Bahrain based on information and testimonies of activists who have faced various forms of torture in Bahraini prisons over the past ten years until now.

The nature of the violations committed and still being committed by the Bahraini regime range from the deprivation of nationality, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, the use of violence against demonstrators, the implementation of death sentences for opponents and the practice of various forms of torture with detainees in prisons where dozens died under torture.

With more than 5000 thousand prisoners, Bahrain achieves one of the highest political prisoners in the Gulf, while the treatment in Bahraini prisons can be described as the worst in the region.

Many documented cases of torture in Bahraini prisons confirm the torture methodology as a repressive policy practised by the authorities against opponents and those calling for political reforms in the country.

The number of deaths inside prisons due to torture and health neglect reached 74, while prisons are filled with thousands of political prisoners, who exceed five thousand.

Since the eruption of the Arab Spring events that began in Tunisia and moved to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Oman and Yemen, Bahrain has been one of the countries most affected by the wave of protests. One of the largest spring protests broke out in the Gulf region.

On February 14 2011, protests swept over Bahrain to demand democracy and reform of the country’s political system. The movement continued for other weeks that followed, during which nearly a third of the Bahraini people came out to participate.

The regime forces confronted the protests with violence. Still, after clashes between the regime’s security forces with demonstrators, seven people were killed, and hundreds of detainees were held in regime prisons in the first three weeks of the protests.

On March 14, 2011, the Peninsula Shield Forces entered after the Bahraini government requested assistance to achieve security. Saudi and Emirati military forces entered Bahrain, followed by a few days of a military campaign to disperse the sit-in at the Pearl Roundabout and suppress the protests.

By March 18 2011, the regime had managed to eliminate the sit-in centre at the Pearl Roundabout by using excessive force against the demonstrators and carrying out massive arbitrary arrest campaigns.

Bahrain witnessed in this period and in the following years the practice of systematic torture against opponents, demonstrators and members of the Shiite sect, which was the most present in the protests in the country.

Mohammed Sultan, one of the young people participating in the Bahraini Spring protests in 2011, is one of the victims who were tortured by the regime’s security services.

In March 2011, Sultan was taken to the Criminal Investigation Department after his house was raided and stormed by masked officers who pointed guns at Sultan and his family and threatened to kill them. Sultan was beaten during detention in front of his family, to be tied up and covered, and taken to the investigation centre afterwards.

Sultan was severely beaten in the stomach, face and back while blindfolded, to be asked later to confess, but as Sultan says, he does not know what they want him to confess.

The torture sessions continued for days in a row. For long periods, Sultan lost consciousness in many of them. Sultan finally signed a confession whose content is unknown and other papers whose content is unknown. Sultan was transferred to another prison with other prisoners, where he continued to receive bad treatment and humiliation.

After participating in the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2017, Ebtisam Al-Sayegh, a Bahraini human rights activist, was summoned by the security authorities in Bahrain on May 26, 2017.

Al-Sayegh was tortured and sexually assaulted by interrogators and was mistreated and verbally abused. Interrogators threatened her with rape if she continued her human rights activism.

At eleven o’clock at night, they released her to be taken directly to the hospital.

Conditions in Bahraini prisons are terrible. In addition to the willful neglect and stories of torture and ill-treatment, Bahraini prisons are filled with dissident prisoners at many times their capacity. The situation has worsened over the past two years, and the current one with the spread of the Corona epidemic.

Jau Central Prison, in the south of the country, has a maximum capacity of 1,200 prisoners, while the prison hosts three times that number. The situation is similar in other prisons in the country.

Medical negligence and prison overcrowding have led to prison protests and, in some cases, riots. The authority, as usual, faced protests over the health situation and the spread of the epidemic inside prisons with excessive violence, as happened in early April 2021.

On June 9, 2021, the death of prisoner of conscience Hussein Barakat was announced after contracting the Coronavirus. The prisoner’s wife reported that her husband called her, asking her to call people to move and take him to the hospital. The authorities did not allow her to see her husband and did not take him to the hospital, only take him to the prison clinic.

Hussein Barakat was one of the detainees in the overcrowded Jau prison, where the authorities claim to have vaccinated all prisoners who requested the vaccine. It is worth noting that Hussein Barakat was one of those who received the prison vaccine before he died after contracting the virus, and the authorities refused to transfer him to the hospital.

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