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Amnesty accuses authorities of human rights violations

by Our Foreign Desk

HUMAN rights watchdog Amnesty International accused Bahraini authorities yesterday of continuing rights violations in a “chilling crackdown on dissent.”

Reforms supposedly put in place in the wake of widespread anti-government protests four years ago have failed to end serious breaches of human rights, Amnesty said in a report released yesterday.

The 79-page document details the continued jailing of activists, bans on protests in the capital and instances of torture and other mistreatment of detainees.

“Four years on from the uprising, repression is widespread and rampant abuses by the security forces continue,” said Amnesty spokesman Said Boumedouha.

“The international image the authorities have attempted to project of the country as a progressive reformist state committed to human rights masks a far more sinister truth.”

Western-allied Bahrain was rocked by large-scale protests in February 2011 seeking greater political rights from the profoundly reactionary monarchy.

Backed by security forces from nearby Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Bahraini authorities crushed the main protests but failed to stifle ongoing low-level dissent.

An inquiry into the initial uprising called for overhauls in the political system and investigations into alleged abuses by security forces.

But minimal reforms have had little effect and Amnesty said that more must be done.

Earlier this month police detained rights activist Nabeel Rajab over online posts related to Bahrain’s participation in air strikes in Yemen.

He was already appealing against a verdict in a separate case involving Twitter comments deemed insulting to government ministries.

Other activists and government opponents are also behind bars, including Ali Salman, the head of al-Wefaq, the country’s main opposition group, who is charged with incitement to forcibly topple the government.

Lead report researcher Said Haddadi said that Bahrain needed to take a number of steps, including sweeping reform of the judiciary and the release of those jailed “for lawfully exercising their right to freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly.”

It also called on Bahrain’s allies, particularly the US, Britain and other European countries, to do more to raise concerns about rights abuses and to push for comprehensive reform of the justice system.

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