Human Rights Watch has strongly criticized “failures” in Bahrain’s justice system for severely punishing pro-reform protesters while offering impunity to abusive security personnel.
“A police officer in Bahrain who kills a protester in cold blood or beats a detainee to death might face a sentence of six months or maybe two years,” said HRW deputy Middle East director Joe Stork in a 64-page report.
Meanwhile, “peacefully calling for the country to become a republic will get you life in prison.”
The report, titled “Criminalizing Dissent, Entrenching Impunity: Persistent Failures of the Bahraini Justice System since the BICI Report,” found that more than two years after the country’s ruler King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa accepted the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to free peaceful dissenters and hold abusive officials accountable, the courts in the kingdom continue to play a key role in maintaining the regime’s highly repressive political order.
The report further blames Bahraini courts for routinely sentencing peaceful protesters to long prison terms. However, it said, “members of security forces are rarely prosecuted for unlawful killings, including in detention, and the few convictions have carried extremely light sentences.”
The BICI report, which HRW describes as the work of five respected international jurists, found that security forces were responsible for more than a dozen unlawful killings and routine excessive use of force in suppressing pro-democracy protests in February through April 2011.
It also found that detainees were subjected to “a deliberate practice of mistreatment” that led to at least five deaths in detention.
HRW further criticized Bahrain’s Western allies for failing to press Manama to stop rights violations.
The organization says its report is based on written verdicts and other court documents.
Bahrain has been witnessing a popular uprising since February 2011. Scores of people have been killed and many more arrested since then.