[JURIST] Thirty-two nations joined a statement read to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] on Monday regarding human rights concerns in Bahrain. The message, read by a representative of Switzerland, urged [Reuters report] Bahrain to protect citizens’ freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression and to investigate reports of torture in prisons. Bahrain was also criticized for lacking guarantees to fair trials and arresting minors who engaged in protests. The statement commended the nation’s investigation of abuses by security officials. The Bahraini government spoke out [Gulf News report] against the statement on Tuesday, saying it contained untruthful information, ignores progress the country has made toward human rights, and failed to consider how the statement could be used to encourage violence. The countries joining in on the statement included the US, UK, France and others.
For years, tension has existed in Bahrain related to freedom of expression. Bahrain has experienced especially high tension between police and protestors since early 2011. In April Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported that reforms in Bahrain failed to end [JURIST report] serious human rights violations. The report detailed the continued jailing of activists and mistreatment of detainees. In February a Bahraini court found 11 Shiites guilty [JURIST report] attacking police in 2013, and three Shiites were later sentenced to death. The other eight defendants were handed life sentences and stripped of their citizenship. Also in February Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior initiated a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into alleged criminal content posted by the Al-Wefaq opposition group.