Human Rights Watch said in its annual report that it’s been nine years since Bahrain’s February 2011 uprising, however in the years since, Bahrain’s human rights crisis has only worsened. The authorities have demonstrated a zero-tolerance policy for any free and independent political thought, and they have imprisoned, exiled, or intimidated into silence anyone who criticizes the government.
According to the organization, from the very beginning, Bahraini authorities carried out a systematic campaign of retribution, using lethal force to disperse protests, arresting thousands, and firing hundreds of public sector employees suspected of supporting the protesters’ democratic demands. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, in its November 2011 report, confirmed the “existence of an operational plan” to terrorize protesters and concluded that a lack of accountability had led to a “culture of impunity.”
The rights group has also documented routine torture in Bahrain’s prisons, especially during interrogations. Detainees describe electric shocks, suspension in painful positions, forced standing, extreme cold, and sexual abuse.
Bahrain’s allies, including the United States and United Kingdom, seem reluctant to face the reality of what’s happening in the country. During 2019, the U.S. State Department approved three major weapons sales to Bahrain worth 3.4 billion dollars, despite the government’s dismal record on human rights and relentless persecution of dissidents. The United States has also failed to publicly raise human rights concerns with Bahraini authorities.
The rights organization added that Bahrain’s allies need to investigate — and publicly report — how effective their arms sales and assistance to Bahrain have been.