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Bahrain backtracks on human rights pledges: Amnesty

Hundreds of demonstrators have since been jailed [AFP]

Date of publication: 7 September, 2017

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Bahrain has retreated from promised reforms and "dramatically" escalated a clampdown on political dissent over the past year, rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Thursday.
Bahrain has retreated from promised reforms and "dramatically" escalated a clampdown on political dissent over the past year, rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Thursday.

"Despite repeated claims... to the contrary, Bahrain has been steadily backtracking on the promises of reform it made following its heavy-handed response to the uprising in 2011," Amnesty said. 

"Since June 2016, the Bahraini authorities have dramatically stepped up their crackdown on dissent."

The rights group called on Manama to "immediately and unconditionally" release prisoners of conscience and halt reprisals against "peaceful critics and their relatives".

It also urged the government to reverse decisions to dissolve Bahrain's two main opposition movements, Waad and Al-Wefaq - the largest bloc in parliament before 2011. 

Authorities in the tiny Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom launched a violent crackdown after an Arab Spring-inspired movement of largely Shia protesters hit the streets to demand reforms.

Hundreds of demonstrators have since been jailed and a number of high-profile activists and clerics stripped of their citizenship.

The king this year approved a constitutional amendment allowing military courts to try citizens on charges linked to terrorism. 

Amnesty has urged the United States and Britain, Bahrain's key allies, to condemn the intensified crackdown.

Bahrain to attend London arms fair

Meanwhile, delegations from Bahrain as well as neighbouring Saudi Arabia are set to attend a biennial arms fair in the British capital next week.

The Defence and Security Equipment International [DSEI] arms will begin on Monday at the ExCel centre in London.

Rights groups argue that regimes accused of human rights violations should be barred from attending and purchasing arms.

"About half a million people are killed every year by firearms, and millions more are trapped in brutal conflicts fuelled by reckless arms sales," said James Lynch, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

Lynch urged major arms exporters, including the UK and France, not to ignore their obligation in regulating arms sales.

"We are urging States Parties to double down on their commitments under the [Arms Trade] treaty, and to hold each other to account for reckless and potentially unlawful arms transfers," he said.

"There is no time to waste - people around the world are being killed, maimed and terrorised by weapons which should never have been transferred in the first place."

Bahrain has been rocked by unrest since 2011, when local authorities backed by a Saudi military force crushed Shia-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

Meanwhile in Yemen, more than 8,300 people have been killed and 44,000 wounded since the Saudi-led military campaign against Shia Houthi rebels began in 2015. 

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