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Bahrain pledges to follow UN plan to improve human rights conditions

Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa pledged on Wednesday to fulfill the 158 recommendations included in the UN Universal Periodic Review [materials] regarding human rights abuses against political opposition. Al Khalifa said Bahrain would begin accepting peaceful political opposition [AP report]. It is unclear if Bahrain will change how it handles dissent after consistent crackdowns on protesters recently. Following Al Khalifa's pledge, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called on Bahrain to follow through with their promises, but raised doubts [press release] as to whether the government is fully committed to reform.

Protests and demonstrations in Bahrain have been ongoing since February 2011 [JURIST report]. Earlier this week seven police officers were charged [JURIST report] with torturing protesters. Earlier this month the government announced that it would pursue legal proceedings [JURIST report] against the al Wefaq [official website, in Arabic] political party, which it labels an opposition group, for engaging in anti-government protests in the face of a ban [JURIST report] of those activities. Also this month, a civilian court in Bahrain upheld lengthy prison sentences [JURIST report] for 20 opposition and human rights activists, including eight life sentences. At the end of August a Bahraini appeals court overturned the conviction [JURIST report] of prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab [JURIST news archive]. In July Amnesty International [advocacy website] urged the government [JURIST report] of Bahrain to release all prisoners of conscience immediately.

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