Human Rights Watch (HRW) has blasted the Persian Gulf country of Bahrain for its severe punishment of peaceful protesters while granting immunity to abusive authorities.
In its latest report on Bahrain, the HRW on Wednesday lashed out at the Manama regime’s justice system, describing it as “criminal” and censuring its “failure to deliver basic accountability and impartial justice.”
“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, while peacefully calling for the country to become a republic will get you life in prison,” said HRW’s Deputy Middle East Director Joe Stork following the release of the report.
“Bahrain’s problem is not a dysfunctional justice system,” Stork emphasized, “but rather a highly functional injustice system.”
The 64-page 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.