HRW urges Bahrain to probe torture claims as 6 more tweeters jailed

HRW urges Bahrain to probe torture claims as 6 more tweeters jailed
Human Rights Watch demands Bahrain immediately probe numerous allegations of torture, saying its refusal could signal the country has become a haven for torturers. This comes as six more tweeters get jail terms for ‘abusing freedom of expression.’

HRW cites multiple reports of torture that emerged during the Formula 1 grand prix held in Bahrain in April. They include accounts of activists and women subjected to electric shocks and forced into signing confessions.

In addition, the organization harks back to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report, issued in November 2011 that stated five activists had died in custody of torture since uprisings began against the Sunni ruling class.

“If the latest allegations are brushed aside it will be yet more evidence suggesting that Bahrain’s justice system is a haven for torturers,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Bahrain’s allies should apply serious pressure on Bahrain to investigate and hold accountable anyone responsible for brutally torturing activists.”

Bahrain has blocked the entry of the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, from coming to probe police abuses of power. His visit, which was scheduled to begin on May 8, was indefinitely postponed by the Bahraini authorities.

“This is the second time that my visit has been postponed, at very short notice. It is, effectively, a cancellation as no alternative dates were proposed, nor is there a future road map to discuss,” said Mendez, expressing his “disappointment” over the announcement.

Bahraini protestors run for cover from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes following the funeral of Abd Al-Ghani Al-Rayes in the village of Diraz, west of Manama.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

Protests against the Bahrain’s oppressive Sunni royal family have become commonplace. The country’s 70 per cent Shia claim they are discriminated against and call for a transfer to a democratic system of government.

This comes as six tweeters were jailed on Wednesday for insulting King Hamad and ‘misusing the right to free expression.’ According to prosecutors, they posted comments on their Twitter feeds that undermined “the values and traditions of Bahrain's society towards the king."

The Bahraini capital, Manama, was hit by mass protests during the grand prix. Activists branded the event “a race for blood” and claimed it was a ploy by the Bahraini authorities to “whitewash” the country’s poor human rights reputation.

One of the highest-profile cases of human rights abuses to come out of Bahrain is that of activist Nabeel Rajab, who openly attacked the country’s government following an interview on RT for Julian Assange’s show The World Tomorrow. Nabeel was sentenced to three years in jail for ‘participation in an illegal assembly’ and ‘calling for a march without prior notification.’

Since the beginning of the uprisings against the Bahraini monarchy in 2011, Human Rights Watch has calculated that at least 80 people have been killed and thousands arrested.