Human Rights
Watch welcomed Bahrain's release of
most of the country's remaining political
prisoners prior to this week's popular
referendum on proposed political reforms.

"It's good news that Bahrainis, for the first time in a long time, can publicly criticize the government one day and still be around to do it again the next day, " said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "But many aspects of these political reforms still have to be clarified. It seems that Bahrain is still a long way from democracy."

In a background analysis of the proposed National Charter, on which Bahrainis will cast "yes" or "no" votes on February 14-15, Human Rights Watch called for the abolition of State Security Courts and of all trials in Bahrain that do not correspond to international fair-trial standards. Human Rights Watch also urged that all Bahraini exiles be allowed to return home.