- The Bahraini regime has continued to repress civil society and severely restrict fundamental civic freedoms.
- Bahrain sustained its violent campaign of persecution against political dissidents; torture continued to be endemic whilst political prisoners faced routine human rights violations, discriminatory and degrading treatment and abysmal prison conditions.
- Bahrain has continued its targeting of children.
- Please see below for a comprehensive overview of the current human rights situation in Bahrain
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), commented: “Repression in Bahrain has become institutionalised. 11 years since the eruption of the popular uprising, Bahrain is locking away children, placing torture victims on death row and continuing to heavily restrict its citizens’ most basic rights. Given that elections are expected to take place in November, the coming months will be particularly important. Wounds cannot be expected to heal without the release of political prisoners.”
2022 updates on human rights in Bahrain on the 11th anniversary of the pro-democracy uprisings
Overall, in 2021, the Bahraini regime continued to repress civil society and severely restrict fundamental civic freedoms. Bahrain sustained its violent campaign of persecution against political dissidents, and escalated its targeting of children. Torture continued to be endemic whilst political prisoners faced routine human rights violations, discriminatory and degrading treatment and abysmal prison conditions. Bahrain’s internationally discredited oversight bodies continued to whitewash crimes of abuse. Independent rights monitors and UN experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, continued to be denied access to the country.
Updated World Rankings
- Reporters Without Borders has ranked Bahrain at 168 out of 180 countries on the 2021 World Press Freedom Index .
- The Economist ranked Bahrain at 144 out of 167 countries in their 2021 Global Democracy Index.
- For 2020, Freedom House scored Bahrain at 2/40 for political rights and 10/60 for civil liberties, whilst giving it an internet freedom score of 30/100 and a global freedom score of just 12/100.
- Bahrain has been shown to have the highest rate of imprisonment per capita of any Arab country in the MENA region.
Political Prisoners in Jau Prison
- There are an estimated 1,400 political prisoners in Bahrain’s Jau Prison alone, out of an approximate total inmate population of 3,200 to 3,800, according to BIRD who has mapped the country’s prison population. Over 500 of these individuals are serving prison sentences of over 20 years and many have been behind bars since 2011.
- In 2021, three detainees, two of whom were political prisoners, and one former political prisoner tragically died in Bahrain. All four deaths were marred by serious allegations of authorities’ deliberate denial of medical care.
- 10 of those in the 2011 case against leading opposition activists, convicted for their leading roles in the pro-democracy uprising, remain incarcerated. They are: Hasan Mushaima, Abdulwahab Hussain, Sheikh Mohamed Habib al-Miqdad, Sheikh Abduljalil al-Miqdad, Dr Abduljalil al-Singace, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Sheikh Sa’eed al-Nuri, Sheikh Abdulhadi al-Mukhodher, Sheikh Abdulla al-Mahroos, and Mohamed Ali Ismail. The first seven are all serving a life sentence. The leader of Bahrain’s opposition party Al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman, also remains imprisoned serving a life sentence.
- Dr Abduljalil AlSingace has been on hunger strike for over 220 days, since 8 July 2021, in protest at the confiscation of his academic work, which he spent the last 4 years in prison research and writing by hand. Whilst his health deteriorates, authorities have arbitrarily suspended his weekly video call to his family propelling him to intensify his protest by refusing his IV.
- There are currently 26 people on death row in Bahrain, all of whom have exhausted every legal remedy available to them and are at imminent risk of execution. 12 of the 26 are convicted on politically motivated charges, 11 of whom allege torture. 3 people are convicted on drug charges which are not amongst the most serious of offences.
- In July 2021, BIRD and Reprieve revealed that in the last decade, death sentences have risen by 600% whilst those on death row facing imminent execution rose by 2500%. Executions rose by over ten-fold, with 5 of the 6 executions since 2017 condemned as arbitrary or extrajudicial by the UN Special Rapporteur.
Targeting of Children
- Six children are being arbitrarily detained in Bahrain, where five of them have been held since 27 December in violation of UNICEF guidance on detaining children during the pandemic. They were repeatedly interrogated without the presence of a lawyer or their parents, are being denied family visitations and are only permitted one 10-minute long call per week. Their trial is set to take place on 20 February.
- Bahrain escalated violent targeting of children in 2021, arresting and detaining 13 children for protest related activities in February, the youngest being 11 years old, and arresting and arbitrarily detaining a further 5 children in December. Many faced serious rights violations including beatings, subjection to threats of rape and electric shocks.
Cyber attacks on Bahraini human rights activists
- Bahrain continued to use cyber repression to restrict civic space and freedoms. It was revealed that the government hacked the devices of at least 10 Bahraini activists with NSO Group Pegasus spyware, including UK-based activists, whilst at least 58 people were detained, arrested or prosecuted for their online activities.
UK Support for Bahrain
- Since January 2020, the UK has approved licences worth £20 million for the export of military goods to Bahrain, with over £5 million approved in 2021 alone. This does not include 7 unlimited value open licences (see Campaign Against the Arms Trade).
- Since 2016, the UK has funnelled over £53 million to Gulf Cooperation Council states through highly controversial funds, whose suspension was called for by cross-party MPs in July due to their implications in human rights and humanitarian law violations in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. At least £6.5 million of this money has gone to Bahrain in the form of “technical assistance”.
Illegal Extradition under INTERPOL Red Notice
- On 24 January 2021, Bahraini dissident and torture survivor, Ahmed Jaafar Mohammed Ali, was unlawfully extradited from Serbia to Bahrain in flagrant violation of an interim measure issued by the European Court of Human Rights days earlier ordering for his extradition to be halted. Ahmed’s extradition was triggered by an INTERPOL Red Notice against him and was condemned by rights groups.