The U.S. State Department’s 2012 country reports released today include a useful, detailed assessment of human rights violations in Bahrain, which include torture, arbitrary arrests, and attacks on journalists, some of whom covered the Formula One race last year.
The State Department has rightly named names in many emblematic cases of political prisoners, human rights defenders and others. Today the U.S. government has shown it has a real understanding of the human rights reality in Bahrain. It is all the more frustrating then, that the State Department has been relatively silent on the ongoing issues in Bahrain.
The report outlines key human rights problems in the Kingdom, including torture in both official government detention centers and unofficial sites. “The [Bahraini] government limited freedom of speech and press through active prosecution of individuals under libel, slander, and national security laws; firing or attacking civilian and professional journalists; and proposing legislation to limit speech in print and social media,” it reports.
The report commendably names prominent human rights activist who have been imprisoned or harassed, including Nabeel Rajab, Maryam Al Khawaja, Mohammed Al Maskati, Said Yousif Al-Muhafadha, Mahdi Abu Deeb, and Nada Daif. We can only hope this means the U.S. government will be more forthcoming about naming specific human rights activists under threat.
“The most serious human rights problems included citizens’ inability to change their government,” the report notes, and that “King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, the head of state, appoints the cabinet consisting of 29 ministers; approximately half are members of the Sunni Al-Khalifa ruling family.”
The report also includes a section on the repression of reporters during last year’s Formula One in Bahrain, and also highlights the cases of prominent jailed opposition leaders, including Ibrahim Sharif and Shaikh Mahfoodh.
The Bahraini government reacted to largescale peaceful demonstrations in early 2011 with a crackdown on political dissent and human rights activism. In recent months there has been an increase in violent protests against the regime.