The past few weeks have seen a sharp rise in the number of arrests and prosecutions in Bahrain. The recent arrest of more than fifty activists
accused of ‘terrorism’ under the infamous ‘Terrorism Act’ legislation, in addition to the stiffening of penalties against activists, is a cause for concern. And while accusations of torture and coerced confessions permeate cases against innocent Bahrainis, such allegations are infrequently investigated and rarely heard during trials. Most recently there has been increased conflict between anti-regime activists and security forces. youth activist have been sentenced to 7 or 5 years in prison for assaulting a police station. The king has made moves to stiffen the penalties for “terrorist acts. The crackdown in September also saw 40 children arrested—a sharp increase from August’s 11.The increase in security activity targeting the Bahraini population has not gone unnoticed. Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the largest opposition political society in Bahrain, noted
the arrest of more than 200 people in the month of September alone, the majority of whom were arrested during night raids on private homes in neighborhoods known for peaceful political demonstrations. Of those arrested, only half have been tried and sentenced, many under political motivated charges. Such as “offending the king, burning tires, calling for unauthorized protests, assembling [and] possessing fire arms, attacking the police, attempted murder, possession of Molotov cocktails, organizing terror groups, [and] bombings,” are frequently used against protesters, human rights activists and opposition figures to silence demands for democratic reform and deter dissent. Roughly 100 individuals were handed sentences between 5 and 15 years in prison, while 9 were sentenced to between 6 months and 3 years behind bars.Additionally, as the Government of Bahrain fills its cells with political prisoners, prison conditions continue to deteriorate. In an official report presented by the Office of the Ombudsman, Mr. Nawaf Almaawdah noted that Bahrain’s jails are operating at 33 per cent over capacity
. Among the report’s recommendations was ensuring sufficient access to healthcare—a persistent problem
in Bahrain’s jails—along with 12 other concrete measures to ensure prisoner safety and care.
“By raiding homes in the middle of the night without a warrant, arresting children under such spurious charges as participating in an ‘unauthorized gathering’ and labeling peaceful demonstrators ‘terrorists’, the Bahrain government appears to be utilizing every measure possible to silence political dissent instead of respecting basic human rights, accepting the legitimate calls for democratic reform and participating in a meaningful dialogue with all aspects of society,” Mr. Abdulla said. “The international community must come together to have a frank and urgently needed conversation regarding the human rights situation in Bahrain and to apply real pressure on the Government of Bahrain to ensure that desperately needed reforms are enacted. Without such measures, the government will continue to act with impunity, human rights activists will continue to be targeted, and the international community will have failed the peaceful protesters who suffer daily for exercising their basic rights by demanding democratic reform,” Mr. Abdulla said.