Bahrain is still paying a heavy price for freedom

Vanja Skotnes

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It’s two years since the protests in Bahrain began, and the human rights situation in the country is only getting worse. The people are still suppressed and activists are jailed. Their voices are silenced.

Uprisings in Bahrain started 14th of February 2011. The people demanded political reforms, freedom, democracy and justice. Authorities and king Al Khalifa’s rule answered the protests with violence and hundreds of people were imprisoned. Many were also abused and allegedly tortured.

“The government of Bahrain cannot carry on imprisoning people simply because it can’t take criticism. It’s time that people detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression be released and for the harassment of other activists to desist,” says Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme Deputy Director.

“Bahrain risks creating nothing more than a bureaucracy of human rights if changes are not matched by a genuine political will to reform – Bahrainis need to see their rights respected in everyday life.”

Jailed on false charges

Amnesty met with seven prisoners of conscience in Bahrain, detained in Jaw prison. All of the seven reported they had been jailed on false charges or under laws that repress basic rights.

Many of the prisoners of conscience were allegedly tortured in the first weeks of arrest.

“No convincing evidence had been submitted to justify these convictions. It appears that all of those involved were targeted for their anti-government views and for having participated in peaceful protests,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui says.

One of the prisoners told Amnesty that when he had to go to the hospital for treatment, his face was covered and he couldn’t see the doctor or the medical staff.

In prison for a tweet

Four men are jailed in Bahrain for publicly having “insulted the king” on Twitter. They were all charged for using their freedom of expression.

Abdullah Alwi al-Hashemi faces six months in prison, while Ali Mohammed Ali, Ali Abdul Nabi al-Hayeki and a fourth man faces four months.

Last October, the Interior Minister of Bahrain announced a ban against demonstrations, and said that this ban will last until “the safety is recovered”. He also said that one of his biggest worries were that demonstrations expressed opposition to government and the king.

This video is one year old, however still highly relevant:

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Vanja Skotnes

As a former journalist for Amnesty International, I will use this blog to write about human rights abuses. My intention is to create more awareness. Follow my posts and stay updated. Twitter: @vanjaskotnes