Routine Abuse, Routine Denial

Civil Rights and the Political Crisis in Bahrain

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Human rights abuses in Bahrain are wide-ranging and fall into two basic categories. The first relates to law enforcement and administration of justice issues. These encompass the behavior of security forces toward those under arrest and detention, and when confronting civil disturbances; arbitrary detention; physical and psychological abuse of detainees; denial of access to legal counsel; and denial of the right to a swift and impartial judicial hearing. The second area of human rights violations relates to the broad denial of fundamental political rights and civil liberties, including freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, and the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs. In terms of numbers of people affected, the situation has been particularly acute since the end of 1994, with the onset of a period of protracted civil unrest that has continued into the spring of 1997. This unrest has increasingly taken on the coloration of a sectarian conflict between the majority Shi'a population and the Sunni ruling family and military-political establishment. Human Rights Watch calls on the government of Bahrain to repeal all laws and decrees that unduly restrict the ability of Bahraini citizens to exercise peacefully their rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression. Human Rights Watch also urges an end to the practice of detaining people for unlimited or extended periods without charge, and an end to the practice of interrogating detainees without allowing access to legal counsel.