The authorities continued to crack down on protests and dissent. The government made some reforms based on the recommendations of a major inquiry into human rights violations in 2011, but failed to implement some of the inquiry’s main recommendations in relation to accountability. Scores of people remained in prison or were detained for opposing the government, including prisoners of conscience and people sentenced after unfair trials. Human rights defenders and other activists were harassed and imprisoned. The security forces continued to use excessive force against protesters, resulting in deaths, and allegedly tortured or otherwise ill-treated detainees. Only a few security officers were prosecuted for human rights violations committed in 2011, perpetuating a climate of impunity. One death sentence was imposed; there were no executions.
There were further anti-government protests, mostly by members of the majority Shi’a community who complained of being politically marginalized by the ruling Sunni minority. There were reports of demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails and blocking roads. Security forces used excessive force in dispersing some demonstrations. Political dialogue between the government and the opposition remained largely stalled.
In November, the government reported that “two Asians” had been killed and a third injured by bomb explosions in Manama. Days later, the authorities stripped 31 people of their Bahraini nationality saying they had damaged state security.
The government introduced several reforms recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011, including reinstating dismissed workers and establishing police reform mechanisms. In October, it amended some articles of the Penal Code and included a new definition of torture. However, the government failed to implement other key recommendations of the BICI, which was appointed by the King in 2011 to investigate human rights violations committed by government forces when suppressing popular protests in the early months of 2011. In particular, the authorities failed to release all prisoners of conscience and to independently investigate allegations of torture of detainees and bring all the perpetrators to justice. However, under the UN Universal Periodic Review in May, the government accepted over 140 recommendations, including calls to implement the BICI’s recommendations. The government rejected other recommendations under the UN Universal Periodic Review concerning abolition of the death penalty. The government imposed tighter visa controls on foreign NGOs in March and, in October, banned all public rallies and gatherings. It lifted the ban in December. In November, the Ministry of Social Development overruled the election results for the board of the Bahrain Lawyers Society, and reinstated the previous board.Top of page
There was a continuing climate of impunity, reflected by the low number of prosecutions of police officers and security forces members relative to the extent and gravity of human rights violations committed in 2011. The authorities failed to independently investigate all allegations of torture. Only a handful of low-ranking security officers and two senior officers were brought to trial in connection with killings of protesters or torture and other abuses against detainees in custody in 2011. Three were convicted and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment but at least one remained at liberty pending an appeal. Three others were acquitted, prompting a prosecution appeal.
The security forces continued to use excessive force, using shotguns and tear gas against protesters, sometimes in enclosed spaces. Two children were among four people reported to have died after being shot with firearms or by the impact of tear gas canisters. At least 20 other people were reported to have died as a result of tear gas. The authorities said in September that 1,500 security officers had been injured in protests since the beginning of the year. Two police officers were killed in the second half of the year.
The government took steps to improve police behaviour, issuing new regulations for the police including a code of conduct and providing human rights training. However, the police continued to arrest people without warrants, detain them incommunicado for days or weeks, deny them access to lawyers, and allegedly subject them to torture or other ill-treatment, including beatings, kicking, verbal abuse and threats of rape.
Tens of children aged 15 to 18, including those arrested at or during demonstrations, were held in adult prisons and detention centres; many were accused of “illegal gathering” or rioting. Some were beaten at or following arrest and denied access to their families or lawyers during the first hours of detention, during which time they alleged they were forced to sign “confessions”. Some were sentenced to prison terms.
Human rights defenders and other activists were harassed, detained and sentenced by the authorities, and vilified in the state media.
In August, several UN Special Rapporteurs jointly urged the Bahraini government to cease harassing human rights defenders.Top of page
Prisoners of conscience, including those sentenced in connection with mass popular protests in 2011, remained in prison. They appeared to have been targeted for their anti-government views.
On 30 October the Interior Minister banned all rallies and gatherings alleging that they allowed people to express opposition to the government and led to rioting, violence and destruction of property. He said the ban would remain in place until “security is maintained” and that anyone breaching the ban would be prosecuted. The ban was lifted in December and the Ministry of the Interior announced a proposal to amend the Code on Public Meetings, Processions and Gatherings, which imposed restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly.
One death sentence was reportedly imposed in March and upheld by the Court of Appeal in November. There were no executions. Two death sentences imposed in 2011 by a military court were quashed by the Court of Cassation and the two defendants were retried before a civilian court.Top of page