Rights groups release report critical of Bahrain government

BahrainThree Bahraini rights groups issued a report Tuesday that alleges human rights violations by government forces, including the use of excessive force, persistent torture and arbitrary arrests in cracking down on pro-democracy protests that began in February.

During the one-month uprising that was squelched with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia, 45 people were killed, 1,866 were tortured and 1,500 were arbitrarily arrested, according to the report "Bahrain Human Price of Freedom and Justice."

Those arrested included numerous doctors and nurses who were targeted because they treated injured protesters, according to the report by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and the Bahrain Human Rights Society.

The report comes a day before the expected release of an independent report on the government's response commissioned by Bahrain's king, Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa, in June. On Monday a statement from the government Cabinet acknowledged "excessive force and mistreatment of detainees" but laid blame on individual officers rather than systematic problems in government policy.

Beyond the government's handling of the uprising, the report documents ongoing rights abuses. About 500 people continue to be imprisoned and many are being tried in military court. In September, 208 civilians arrested in relation to protests were sentenced to prison, including 20 doctors who received terms of up to 15 years.

The report expresses disappointment in a lack of accountability by those responsible for the abuses, despite the appointment of the independent commission that will release Wednesday's report.

The rights groups make it clear they will not be satisfied if the commission's findings result only in prosecution of low-level police and security officials while ignoring the underlying political issues that have led to the violations.

"We believe that the Bahraini government is only interested in plastering over the cracks in its international reputation," the report says, "and not in addressing the long-standing systemic problems which led to the violations."

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-- Raja Abdulrahim reporting from Los Angeles

Photo: In February, an injured man at a hospital in Manama, Bahrain's capital, yells as he speaks about the situation in his country after security forces opened fire on antigovernment protesters. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

 
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