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Bahrain using torture to extract confessions: HRW

[JURIST] The government of Bahrain has reverted to using torture [press release] to gain confessions from detainees after a decade of reform banning such practices, according to a report [text] released Monday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. HRW conducted interviews with 20 former detainees who claimed that they had suffered torture and ill-treatment as early as 2007. The reversion appears to coincide with the rising political tension between Shia Muslims and the Sunni-run government. As confrontations became more violent, several Shia protesters were arrested by security forces and reportedly tortured during interrogations:

Security officials appear to have utilized a specific repertoire of techniques against many of those arrested designed to inflict pain and elicit confessions. These techniques included the use of electro-shock devices, suspension in painful positions, beating the soles of the feet (falaka), and beatings of the head, torso, and limbs. Some detainees also reported that security officials had threatened to kill them or to rape them or members of their families. Many detainees were subjected to more than one of these practices. The use of these techniques, separately and in combination, violates Bahrain’s obligations as a state party to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture) and other international treaties, as well as the prohibition of torture in Bahraini law.

The report also claims that prosecutors "failed to respond appropriately to [detainees'] complaints of ill-treatment" by not launching formal investigations and administering medical examinations. Officials with the Ministry of Interior and the Public Prosecution Office [official websites, in Arabic] claim that the "allegations had been fabricated" through a conspiracy created while the detainees were confined together. HRW stated that these claims were negated by medical reports, court papers, and evidence that many of the detainees interviewed were kept in solitary confinement. The detainees' allegations were strengthened when a Bahraini court acquitted all defendants on all charges on the basis of medical reports that evidenced that "defendants had been physically coerced into confessing."

Arrests of Shia protesters increased when Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa [BBC profile] ratified [JURIST report] a controversial protest law in 2006 that some rights groups suggest could be inconsistent with common international rights standards. The Amendments to Law 18/1973 criminalizes unauthorized protests, prohibits foreign nationals from demonstrating, and bans demonstrators from certain public places such as hospitals, airports, and near diplomatic offices and other international organizations. HRW suggested that the Amendment may run afoul of Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text], which Bahrain has not yet ratified.

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