28 March 2012

At least 31 extrajudicial killings since official commission of inquiry, says Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Since an official commission of inquiry last November recommended reforms to address Bahrain's human rights violations in last year's uprisings, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has documented at least 31 "extrajudicial killings" in Bahrain.

Most of the deaths were from teargas inhalation, including three in the past week alone, and three were as a result of torture in custody, says BCHR in a new report reviewing progress since the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)'s findings were presented.

Human Rights Watch also issued its own report following a national commission's assessment that lauded the government's progress.

BCHR's Post-BICI Report accuses the regime of new cases of torture, kidnapping and arbitrary arrests, despite government assurances to the contrary. It calls for an immediate end to violations, as well as reparations for victims and punishment of offenders.

BCHR also points out that the government continues to deny responsibility for any of the killings - not a single police officer has been convicted of torture or murder since the uprising started last February.

Another key finding of the BCHR report, which is broken down by type of violation, is that on average, 15 villages are tear-gassed every single night. The tear gas is imported, prompting BCHR to demand that the international community end its arms deals with Bahrain.

The report is dedicated to the former BCHR president, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence for his involvement in last year's protests. Now on the 49th day of a hunger strike, he says he will continue to refuse food "until freedom or death." Earlier this month, 50 groups worldwide, including many IFEX members, called for his release.

BCHR records 397 individuals as still being detained, with sentences ranging from six months to life, including rights activist and blogger Abduljalil al-Singace. Blogger Ali Abdul Emam was sentenced to 15 years in jail but his whereabouts are unknown.

In its own report, Human Rights Watch also documents a lack of progress in implementing the BICI recommendations and a pervasive culture of impunity.

Human Rights Watch notes that although "a positive step" was implemented when the government stripped the National Security Agency (NSA) of authority to arrest and detain people, the head of the NSA was then promoted to a higher rank and named a national security adviser to the king.

Human Rights Watch also observes that despite the attorney general's promise in December to commute the sentences of all persons charged with offences involving political expression, only 19 of 334 people were freed.

The two reports were issued this week following the publication of a review by a national commission that complimented the government for making "significant" progress.

Al Jazeera reports that the national commission, established to monitor implementation of the BICI report, was overwhelmingly positive in its report, praising the government's progress in implementing more than two dozen recommendations as "unprecedented."

Local critics quickly dismissed the commission's work as biased, having been appointed by the king and made up of many members from the upper house of parliament, which is also appointed by the king. Members of Al Wefaq, the largest opposition political group in Bahrain, claim that less than 10 per cent of the BICI report's recommendations have been implemented.

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