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Bahrain: Profile of a Police State


Monarchal despotism runs Bahrain. Democracy is verboten. None whatever exists. Neither human nor civil rights. Anyone criticizing Al Khalifa rule risks arrest, imprisonment, torture, even death. Repression persists. New "Protecting Society from Terrorism Act" legislation the latest example.

Americans for Democracy for Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) expressed deep concerns.

The new measure updates a 2006 law. Clarifying Bahrain's definition of terrorism. Including provisions further undermining fundamental rights. The law was revised earlier in August 2013. Used ruthlessly against pro-democracy activists. Banning dissent. Imprisoning hundreds in 2013 alone. Including children young as 15. Many receiving lengthy sentences. For wanting rights everyone deserves.

The updated law includes a separate prosecution office. For whatever authorities call terrorism-related crimes. "Effectively creating an entirely new process of criminal procedure for persons (unjustly) accused of terrorism," according to BCHR.

Suspects can be held up to six months without trial. Violating fundamental international law. Including Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), stating:

"Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release."

Not in Bahrain. Or America. Or Israel. Or likeminded states. Brutality defines their agendas. Torture is longstanding US and Israeli policy. Bahrain's ruling authorities routinely detain victims for prolonged periods. Denying them all rights. New legislation authorizes prolonged pre-trial detentions. In brazen violation of international law. Authorities can detain suspects up to 28 days without charges or investigation. Three additional days for interrogations and charges to be drawn.

Further detention is allowed. Up to seven months pre-trial. During initial days after arrest, suspects routinely are denied access to family members or counsel. According to BCHR:

Most detainees "report that they are subjected to torture and ill-treatment during the pre-trial period. Such was the case of photographer Hussain Hubail, human rights defender Naji Fateel, and children Jehad Sadeq and Ebrahim Al-Muqdad."

Police now have greater than ever authority. Permitted to search anyone anytime without court authorization. Allowed to stop and search public and private vehicles. Ban free movement indefinitely. Interdict private communications. Up to 24 hours. Without court authorization. By order of the special prosecutor for terrorism-related crimes.

Anyone suspected of terrorism can be banned from certain areas up to 15 days. New legislation "provide(s) legal justification for many already utilized police practices that violate basic human rights," said BCHR. Shaheen Al-Buainain serves as senior prosecutor for alleged terrorism-related crimes. In 2013, he was accused of involvement in torture. A complaint was filed against him with Bahrain's Interior Ministry's Special Investigations Unit.

New legislation shows its government intends silencing dissent. Peaceful protesters can be accused of terrorism. Arrested. Tortured. Sentenced to long prison terms. For exercising their rights to free expression, assembly and association. Police states operate this way. Bahrain is one of the worst.

On December 29, Al-Wefaq Political Society secretary-general Shaikh Ali Salman was lawlessly arrested. BCHR and other human rights groups condemned his detention. For peaceful political activities. As leader of Bahrain's largest opposition political party.

On December 28, he was summoned to appear before Bahrain's Criminal Investigation Department (CID). After concluding his AQl-Wefaq's General Assembly conference. He was arrested and interrogated. Denied access to counsel while ongoing. Accused of inciting anti-government hatred. Urging youths to disobey its authority. Insulting the judiciary and executive power. Inciting hatred against other unspecified people. Seeking external support. Broadcasting false information able to cause panic. Breaching security. Participating in demonstrations causing economic harm. According to BCHR President Nabeel Rajab:

"The silence of the international community contributed to the arrest of Shaikh Ali Salman, as it also contributes to the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain. With this high-profile arrest, however, the Government of Bahrain has gone too far in targeting its peaceful critics."

Al-Wefaq boycotted earlier 2014 parliamentary elections. So did other opposition parties. Refusing to participate in a sham process. Al-Wefaq members have been targeted for years. For their political and human rights activism. Former party members Matar Matar and Jawad Fairooz were arrested, tortured and detained for month.

So was deputy party secretary-general Khalik al-Marzooq. Most recently, Al-Wefaq's Shura Council head Sayed Jameel Kadhem was prosecuted for Twitter comments citing corruption. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) director of advocacy Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei said:

"Earlier this month, Britain announced that it will be building a naval base in Bahrain, which the Government of Bahrain is bankrolling. The UK's support for the Government of Bahrain, despite the human rights situation and harassment of Al-Wefaq Society, has given the Bahraini authorities the green light to further attack political societies."

Shaikh Ali Salman was harassed before. Interrogated twice in 2014 for expressing his views freely. In July, US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski met with Al-Wefaq members. Bahraini authorities expelled him. Sued Al-Wefaq. Summoned Shaikh Salman and al-Marzooq for questioning. On October 28, prohibited Al-Wefaq from conducting normal activities. According to Americans for Democracy for Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) executive director Husain Abdulla:

"The international community and the United States must condemn the detention of Shaikh Ali Salman, for it is a clear sign of the Bahraini authorities disregard for the human and political rights of the Bahraini people."

State terror defines official Bahraini policy. Anyone can be targeted for expressing political views freely. Championing human rights. Supporting democratic change. Daily crackdowns continue. Challenging repressive rule is considered terrorism. Beatings. Arrests. Disappearances. Torture. Imprisonments. Cold-blooded murder are standard practice.Women and children are brutalized like men. So are students, doctors, nurses, other medical personnel, journalists, human rights activists and foreign observers.

Elections when held are farcical. Business as usual persists. Ordinary Bahrainis have no say whatever. Police states operate this way. Bahrain is one of the region's worst.

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