Bahrain: Investigate Alleged Torture of Activists
Detainees, Families Report Sexual Assault, Electrocution, Beatings
(New York, January 21, 2008) – Bahrain should investigate allegations that judicial interrogators tortured and in one case sexually assaulted opposition political activists detained after violent protests last month, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch also called on the Bahraini government to allow an independent physician to examine detainees who allege abuse and to discipline or prosecute security officials responsible for abusing detainees.
The abuse allegations center on several opposition political activists who were among dozens arrested following confrontations between protesters and security forces in and around the capital Manama in December 2007. The protests, which began on December 17 to mark abuses by security forces during political unrest in the 1990s, grew after the death of one demonstrator following a clash with security forces. In one subsequent incident, according to authorities, protestors set fire to a police vehicle. Several detainees face a range of charges including illegal possession of weapons allegedly stolen from the vehicle.
“Bahrain’s response to allegations of torture against dissidents will show whether it really respects basic human rights,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Bahrain should launch an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into allegations of grave abuses in detention centers.”
A senior Interior Ministry official on January 17, 2008, denied there had been any mistreatment of detainees. He was quoted as saying that all those alleging abuse had been examined by a forensic physician and none showed any signs of torture. A lawyer representing several of the detainees told Human Rights Watch he had received no response to his request for a second examination by an outside physician.