serious HR violations A seminar organised by Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group Speakers and commentators presented their views on the failed political programme, people’s demands and the regime’s inability to address the crisis Thursday 21st August 2008
Introductory remarks: Lord Avebury: For the last few years, we have held this event to review the human rights situation in Bahrain, to coincide with the two most important events in the state’s recent history: independence on August 15, 1971, and the dissolution of the Parliament and suspension of the constitution on August 26, 1975. And every year we have to acknowledge that in spite of the paper commitments to human rights by the hereditary dictatorship, there has been no real improvement on the ground.
This year, we have the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain, like the rest of them so far a low-key affair but all the same pointing to the main areas of concern. The High Commissioner’s Office, for instance, takes up a theme which has been highlighted every year at these meetings: that although Bahrain has signed the Convention Against Torture, Decree Law 56 of 2002 extended a blanket amnesty to the perpetrators of torture before that date, and denied access to redress to the victims. The Committee Against Torture expressed concern in the same report about extended periods of incommunicado detention after the Convention was ratified; inadequate safeguards for detainees including access to legal advice, medical assistance and visits by family members, and the absence of any mechanism for allowing independent monitors to visit places of detention without prior notice, despite assurances by the government. In the UN compilation of stakeholders’ reports, the Asian Center for Human Rights say that security forces continue to practice torture, an allegation repeated separately by Frontline Defenders. Indeed the US State Department reports allegations of torture by Human Rights Watch and the newspaper Al Wasat, which are not included in the UN summary. In these circumstances, it was alarming to read the king’s threats against human rights defenders, who are being targeted for their alleged loyalty to ‘foreign agendas’. The agendas in question are those of the UN Human Rights Council, the Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures, established by the General Assembly without dissent, and if Bahrain doesn’t endorse these agendas, it should resign its seat on the Council. The king’s menaces were particularly directed towards “those whom we pardoned after being in exile”, implying that the exiles had committed criminal offences. If that had been the case, they wouldn’t have qualified for refugee status under the Convention, and their offence in the eyes of the régime was to stand up for human rights and democracy. When the reforms were instituted in 2001 that led to the recall of the exiles, the king used the language of human rights and democracy, so it was his late father who might have been pardoned, not the exiles. But its when we turn to what the High Commissioner’s report says on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly that we see the hollowness of the 2001 settlement, and the strenuous efforts made to stifle criticism of it. The Committee Against Torture recommends that inappropriate restrictions on human rights NGOs be lifted, and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination criticises particularly the banning of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, as also does the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. The Special Representative expresses concern about what appears to be a pattern of arrests by human rights defenders, all too likely to continue in the light of the fact that some of the most prominent human rights activists, like Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, President of the banned BCHR, are amongst the returnees. Mr Al-Khawaja and Mr Hassan Mushaima, the Secretary-General of the Haq Democracy Movement, had already been arbitrarily arrested by the security services for their legitimate and peaceful activities, and their case was highlighted in the report to the UN General Assembly in March 2008 by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Hina Jilani. Another case taken up by the Special Representative, together with the Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and on violence against women was that of Mrs Ghada Jamsheer, against whom a ban was imposed from being reported by either the print or broadcasting media after she had called for the dissolution of the Supreme Council for Women, which is headed by the king’s wife, on the grounds that after the Council spent $660,000 on the empowerment of women, not a single woman was elected to the Parliament or municipal councils. Ms Jamsheer also committed the unforgivable sin of listing the women members of the ruling family and their hangers-on who had been appointed to prestigious jobs, albeit without real power, such as members of the Shura Council. Finally, in these brief introductory remarks, I have to mention the régime’s stealthy but inexorable policy of demographic engineering, not adequately covered by the UPR because it doesn’t fit neatly into any of the categories of human rights violations covered by the Treaty Bodies or the Special Procedures. All the same, it is covered in the submissions by the Islamic Human Rights Commission and the Asian Commission for Human Rights. The IHRC point out that thousands of foreign Sunni Muslims in the military and security services are allowed to vote, and ACHR report on the granting of citizenship to Sunni Arabs from elsewhere in the region to reduce and in the end reverse the Shi’a majority. We have had evidence of this practice over several years, and apart from the dilution and ultimate elimination of cultural identity, which Haq proposes should be examined by a UN commission of inquiry, it leads to the impoverishment of the original population, by the preference granted to Sunni immigrants in jobs and housing. Dr Salah al-Bander was expelled from Bahrain in 2006 for his detailed exposure of high level corruption and discrimination against the Shi’a, and before that the International Crisis Group reported in May 2005 on Bahrain’s Sectarian Challenge. But since the UN are not going to examine the grievances of the majority community and the government’s plan to make them into a minority in their own land, perhaps weshould solicit the detailed evidence that would be needed to build on the ICG report and Bandergate. If this meeting agreed, we could establish a web address to which people could email facts about immigration, the granting of citizenship to newcomers, and their own experience of discrimination, in confidence. Lets see if we can do something more than talk about these issues, valuable though it is to send a message to the masses who are silenced in Bahrain.
Farah Eid: former MP and human rights activist First of all I would like to point out that our contractual constitution of 1973 has established the hereditary rule in which the son becomes a ruler after the demise of his father. Ever since the ratification of the constitution all opposition factions have acknowledged this fact and no body thought of overthrowing the regime. The reason why I raise this issue now is the deliberate policy of the Ministry Of Interior to interpret the demand of changing the government as it is an attempt to change the political system.
Perhaps we are the only country in the world whose government is 36 years old and has never changed since our independence in 1971. The present government which has ruled Bahrain for the last 43 years will fight desperately to ensure its survival . One of our problems with the regime is that whenever we raise the issue of electing our government in compliance with principles of the constitutional monarch we face the accusation from the government that behind this demand is the hidden agenda of changing the hereditary rule.I want to make it clear today that our aim is not toppling the Al-Khalifa hereditary rule but to institute a real democracy in which we experience the principle of the separation of the three powers. On Feb. 2001 our hopes and expectations were risen by The National Charter which promised the return to the democratic rule and the implementation of the constitutional monarchy. But on Feb. 2002 The King promulgated his own constitution which automatically abolishes the country’s contractual constitution and establishes a government that is increasingly and violently cracking down on opposition dissent and political and civic rights. It’s true that under the new constitution we have so many institutions both elected and unelected but they are helpless and powerless and their only role is to add beauty to the mock parliament which hides the authoritarian rule. It is sad to say that immediately after the elections of 2002 Bahrain government has overdosed on the use of force and it seems that violence and use of force has become an instrument of policy. After the election of 2002 and in its attempt to give the legitimacy to the new constitution the Bahrain government did not hesitate to violate human rights and commit political harassment against the boycotting political parties . But it is the events of the last four years that raised much concern and flushed out critics and they are : First, there was the banning of holding seminars. In three occasions the ministry of interior used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse seminars held by Haq movements. And in order to prevent the fourth one the ministry of interior sent its threats to the sponsors that it will hold them responsible for the damage and injury that may be caused as a result of using its force. Second, there were the arbitrary arrests and use of torture to abstract confessions. Reports of sexual harassment against detainees continues to be part of torture for abstracting confessions. Third, there are the unfair judgments which were passed on the accused in an attempt to deter them from protesting in the future. Item 2 and 3 proved that neither prosecution nor judiciary are independent . Fourth , there is the political assassination through elections where opposition leaders and prominent figures were failed through rigging the election. Another political assassination was done through the accusation of political activist of collaborating with Hisbulla or Iran. An example of character assassination is Mr Raoof Al- Shayeb who was charged with trading in sex four years ago. In a Muslim country like Bahrain accusation and charging of illegal sex or trading in sex are manifested to discredit political leaders and activists. Fifth, the use of draconian laws 1) the assembly law to prevent the opposition from holding seminars and bringing into public domain issues of vital public interests such as the constitution. 2) the press law to prevent the media from publicly tackling controversial matters such as the Al-Bander reportSixth, in the age of internet the government did not hesitate to pass its illegal orders to ban web sites in an attempt to affect freedom of expression and to exchange ideas and information. As a result of those atrocities we have recently witnessed two important developments : 1) The Resolution submitted by two Senators in the US Senate which condemn the Bahrain government for its grave violations of human rights.2) The discussion of human rights abuses in the committee of human rights of the UK parliament. To cover up those violations and atrocities the government has launched a concerted propaganda which paints any opposition to the King’s constitution as subversive elements. Like in the nineties Bahrain has become an important subject in the International human rights reports including that report of the US Congress. Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations talked about the horrendous violation of human rights and condemned Bahrain government for committing such crimes. Irrespective of all these documented violations and atrocities Bahrain remains in the eye of the USA and Britain as a model for democracy in the Gulf. Today we should not make the mistake by assuming that USA will help to democratize Bahrain because Bahrain is too strategically important to USA ever to be allowed to be fully fledged democracy. This double standard policy should not surprise us at all because the new dictionary of politics says that in order to be democratic you have to be pro-western. It is under the open eye of the parliament that these atrocities are carried out. No wonder why the parliamentarians of 2002 and 2006 expressed their inability to have a check on the government or to enact laws or to pass any amendment to the constitution. What is worse is that instead of putting their differences on one side and dealing with the main problems of the people, the members engaged in sectarian matters leaving the problems to snowball to the extent that they might explode at any time. In view of this critical situation appointing a woman as an ambassador or as a member in the Shura Council is not a matter of progress as it was hailed by the government. We believe that the real progress lies in drawing a new constitution and in giving the people their right to choose their government in free and just elections. It is very important that Bahrain makes a transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. Before I end up it is very important to refer to the meeting which took place between the king and the opposition in March this year. No doubt this meeting sent an optimistic message that things could be solved through negotiation, but unluckily these negotiations failed to continue because the government was not prepared to relinquish any of its powers. In other words the government wanted to continue to control society and to keep the status quo.
Kevin Laue, consultant, REDRESS: Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment in Bahrain
1. IntroductionIn May 2008 the United Nations Human Rights Council considered the human rights record ofBahrain through its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, and it is useful to brieflyexamine the submissions to and outcomes from that process. REDRESS, together with the World Organisation Against Torture and the National Committee of Martyrs and Victims ofTorture submitted a Written Statement to the UPR,1 and this presentation follows from that Statement. It focuses on the Bahrain authorities’ failure to ensure that allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are fully investigated and perpetrators prosecuted, and to afford survivors of torture and their families a remedy and reparation for the harm suffered. 2. Background – Ongoing Human Rights ViolationsTorture was a regular feature during the 1980s-1990s in Bahrain. Despite the subsequentefforts of the Kingdom to usher in a new era of respect for the rule of law, allegations of torture and ill-treatment, particularly against opposition activists and human rights defenders, have continued Individuals have been detained at demonstrations and public gatherings, for example, and tortured. On 17 December 2007 on Martyrs’ Day aimed at paying tribute to past victims of torture, members of the Special Security Forces began a wave of arrests targeting more than 60 persons, among them over ten activists. Some defendants alleged that they were prevented from sleeping, tied up for long periods and denied medical attention. Others declared that they had been subjected to sexual assault whilst in detention. However, in their National Report to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2008, the Bahrain Government stated: [s]ome civil organizations and members of the Chamber of Deputies reported that the police had used undue force to deal with the events, and some claimed that persons who were arrested were subjected to torture. The Minister for Internal Affairs explained the situation before the Chamber of Deputies on 15 January 2008. Replying to a question from a member of the Chamber abouthuman rights safeguards, he confirmed that the laws and regulations had not been broken by the police. The Minister’s replies were completely transparent and honest and all the facts were placed before the Chamber. The Minister for Internal Affairs stated that the general line taken by the Ministry of the Interior was one that was based on respect for human rights. Ministry officials also confirmed that the police had not used undue force against individuals participating in the disturbances and that the persons under arrest had been referred to a legal doctor who had certified that they had not been tortured and that their treatment had been consistent with the law. These comments stand in contrast to the many submissions by NGOs to the UPR, whichreport ongoing violence by state officials in Bahrain, in particular against human rightsprotestors and activists, and the continuing lack of redress for such violations:“35. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that during 2006 and 2007, Bahraini authorities, citing Law 32/2006, banned meetings and on several occasions forcibly prevented or dispersed unauthorized gatherings. The National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture(NCMVT) reported that in many documented cases during the last four years, citizens arrested in relation to unauthorized gatherings or protests had complained of being severely assaulted during arrest, being placed in isolation for periods from three to fifteen days, being subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during interrogation and being kept in detention for a long period during interrogation or trial. In most cases the arrestees were accused by the police of using violence but eventually found guilty of participating in unregistered organizations. In all cases, following internal and external campaigns, the detainees were released without a trial orthrough royal amnesty. Detainee’s access to attorneys is often restricted in the early stages of detention; attorneys must seek a court order to confer with clients. [Other NGOs] added that the Ministry has never investigated such abuses or penalized the offenders and that it protects officials who abuse rights holders. 36. HRW noted that on September 15, 2006 police prevented an NGO from holding a public seminar on the group’s petition calling for a new constitution, on the basis that the group had not sought permission from the Ministry of the Interior. On September 22, when the group tried a second time to hold the meeting, police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the gathering, reportedly wounding several people. In several instances the police used what appeared to be excessive force and inflicted severe beatings on persons they seized, sometimes amounting totorture. On May 20, 2007 police reportedly fired rubber bullets at a gathering at which opposition political figures, including members of Parliament, were speaking, injuring the leader of the opposition National Democratic Action Society. The next evening, in an incident that HRW investigated, riot police confronted a street demonstration protesting the May 20 incident and separately seized two individuals. The officers beat both of them severely, inflicting serious injuries on both, and authorities held one of them for more than a week in undisclosed locations while refusing to acknowledge to his family that he was in the State custody. [Other NGOs] added that protests against the confiscation of the Almalkia Village sea shores were quelled by anti-riot police with many casualties” However, Bahrain denies that torture continues in Bahrain, explicitly stating in their National Report to the UPR that, “…there are no cases of torture in the Kingdom”. 3. Absence of Criminal and Civil Remedies for Torture, and Decree 56 of 2002The UN Committee against Torture, in its concluding observations on Bahrain at its 34thsession in 2005, listed amongst its subjects of concern: “(f) The apparent failure to investigate promptly, impartially and fully the numerousallegations of torture and ill-treatment and to prosecute alleged offenders, and inparticular the pattern of impunity for torture and other ill-treatment committed by lawenforcement personnel in the past;(g) The blanket amnesty extended to all alleged perpetrators of torture or other crimes byDecree No. 56 of 2002 and the lack of redress available to victims of torture;2 Bahrain National Report to the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, UN.Doc. No. A/HRC/WG.6/1/BHR/1 (11 March 2008), at page 26. 3 Summary of Stakeholder Submissions to the HRC Universal Periodic Review on Bahrain, UN. Doc. No.A/HRC/WG.6/1/BHR/3 (6 March 2008) at pages 8-9.4 Bahrain National Report to the Universal Periodic Review, as above, at page 22. (h) The inadequate availability in practice of civil compensation and rehabilitation forvictims of torture prior to 2001”.5The Committee recommended, inter alia, that Bahrain:“(d) Consider steps to amend Decree No. 56 of 2002 to ensure that there is no impunityfor officials who have perpetrated or acquiesced in torture or other cruel, inhuman ordegrading treatment;(e) Ensure that its legal system provides victims of past acts of torture with redress andan enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation”. Despite these recommendations, no steps have been taken to amend Decree 56 of 2002.Decree 56 purports to grant a blanket amnesty for any case (criminal or civil) to all officials who allegedly perpetrated crimes of torture and other crimes against victims or political prisoners, who were themselves granted an amnesty in relation to “offences that endangered or pose a threat to state/national security” under Decree 10 of 2001 and which fell within the jurisdiction of the State Security Court.7 The blanket amnesty contravenes article 89 of the Penal Code that only allows amnesty laws which do “not affect third party rights,” and counters the prohibition of torture in the National Charter. It also cont
rary to the UN Convention against Torture which Bahrain ratified on 5 April 1998 and the provisions relating to the survivor’s right to an effective investigation, and an effective and enforceable remedy. During the period in which the State Security Act 1974 was in force, torture was endemic in Bahrain. The State Security Act contained measures permitting arrest and imprisonment of individuals without trial for up to three years for crimes relating to state security. Other measures, such as the establishment of State Security Courts added to conditions conducive to torture. Torture appears to have been most prevalent in the 1990s when civilians sought the return of a liberal Constitution and their Parliament by presenting two public petitions to the Emir. Individuals connected to this petition were deemed to be acting against the regime and were subsequently detained under State Security Laws, subjected to torture and a number were forced into exile. The impact of the Decree is that no alleged perpetrator has been tried for torture or ill treatment even though the practice of torture in Bahrain during the 1980s and 1990s has been well documented. On 11 December 2002, the Bahraini Public Prosecution (PP) refused to consider torture allegations made by 8 victims against a former member of the security service and 15 of his colleagues. The PP’s response was that the case was void, due to the general and particular amnesty introduced by decrees nos. 10 and 56.9 On 11 September 2003, the PP refused another claim of torture initiated by three Bahrainis (two men and a woman), introduced against former members of the security service. 7 Decree 56 provides that: “No lawsuit related to or result from crimes that were subject to general clemency will be heard in front of any judicial panel irrespective of the plaintiff’s person or position and the accused person, whether he was civilian, acivil employee, or a military officer who was directly involved in the crime or was a partner to the crime that occurred during the period the preceded the issuance of this decree.” 8 US Department of State, Bahrain Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2001; Amnesty International report: “Bahrain Violations of Human Rights” p. 3; US Department of State, Bahrain Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996, p. 3.4 Scanned images of the case (in Arabic) Case by Attorneys: Mr Ahmed Jasim Abdulla, Mr Abdulla Al-Shamlawi, Mr Mohammed Ahmed Abdulla. Mr Essa Ebrahim, Mr Mohammed Redha Bu-Hussien Against Adel Fleifel and 15 members ofthe security service. Many civil society organisations have highlighted the need for reparations for past violations of human rights: “20. As the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture (NCMVT) noted, in 2006, it, in cooperation with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, other NGOs, and members of the national Assembly formed ‘The Coalition for Truth, Equity and Reconciliation’. However, despite the urgentneed to form a national committee for truth and reconciliation as demanded by civil society organizations, [NGOs] reported that the Government claims that there is no need for such a committee because they have addressed the issue of the victims of the past”. However, the Bahraini government refuses to recognise this need, arguing that they haveaddressed the issue of the victims of the past era in the general amnesty declared by the king in 2000.12 In particular, the NCMVT (the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture) noted that in 2007, “…there were no known instances of officials being punished for human rights abuses committed. Controversy continued over impunity for alleged torturers which the government maintained was granted by the 2001 general amnesty”. The Legality of Amnesties under International LawThe obligation to prosecute (or extradite) torture suspects precludes amnesties as these would be an unlawful interference with that duty. General amnesties constitute a breach of the Convention against Torture which Bahrain has ratified. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia noted in the Celibici andFurundzija cases that torture is prohibited by an absolute non-derogable general rule ofinternational law.14 It held that amnesties for torture were null and void and cannot be afforded international recognition. The Committee against Torture has stressed that “In order to ensure that the perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment do not enjoy impunity, the State party shall ensure the investigation and, where appropriate, the prosecution of all those accused of having committed such acts.”15 The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in the Barrios Altos Case (14 March 2001) held that amnesties are prohibited as contravening human rights of a nonderogable nature and that self-amnesty laws lead to victims being defenceless and to the perpetuation of impunity, and, for this reason, were manifestly incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Convention. Under Article 14 of the Convention against Torture, “Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. In the event of the death of the victim as a result of an act of torture, his dependants shall be entitled to compensation”. The Human Rights Committee dealt with the issue as early as 1978 in relation to Chile’samnesty law and has since made similar observations in regard to amnesty laws passed by several countries. In General Comment 20, the Human Rights Committee stated that“Amnesties are generally incompatible with the duty of States to investigate such acts; toguarantee freedom from such acts within their jurisdiction; and to ensure that they do not occur in the future. States may not deprive individuals of the right to an effective remedy, including compensation and such full rehabilitation as may be possible.” The Committee has also consistently criticised states that have sought to impose amnesties for serious breaches.The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called on states “to abrogate legislation leading to impunity for those responsible for grave violations of human rights such as torture and prosecute such violations, thereby providing a firm basis for the rule of law”. Amnesties are also incompatible with the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparations for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law19 and the Updated Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights Through Action to Combat Impunity (Impunity Principles). Decree 56 violates the obligation of the Bahraini Government to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for gross human rights violations and abrogates the right to a fair trial, as it makes it impossible to individualise or identify those responsible. Decree 56 is contrary to the right to judicial and effective redress, the right to effective recourse against acts that violated victims’ fundamental rights and renders the crimes without juridical effect. In passing Decree 56 Bahrain violated its obligation to afford every person subject to its jurisdiction the right to a fair and effective remedy as well as the right of non-discrimination in the application of rights. 5. The 2008 Universal Periodic Review on Bahrain(a) Stakeholder Submissions:Many of the NGO submissions to the UPR highlighted ongoing violations of the prohibition of torture, particularly targeted against human rights activists and defenders, and the culture of impunity for the perpetrators that results from Bahrain’s amnesty laws. Some of the submissions were summarised as follows: “Amnesty International (AI) continued to express concerns in relation to Bahraini legislation which does not explicitly prohibit the use of torture and ill-treatment by the police, and which does notgive a clear and comprehensive definition of torture. Grave concerns have bee
n expressed at Decree 56/2002 which contains a blanket amnesty for alleged perpetrators of torture. HRW highlighted that Bahrain should clarify publicly that Decree 56/2002 does not apply to grave crimes such as torture. Similarly, AI recommended that the government amend legislation to explicitly prohibit the use of torture and ill-treatment, and amend Decree 56/2002 to ensure it does not provide a blanket amnesty for alleged perpetrators of torture. Additionally, AI raised concerns about the lack of specific legislation making redress available to victims of torture and recommended the enactment of legislation in this regard. According to the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), security forces continue to practice torture as a part of law enforcement. Despite classifying torture as a penal offence, instances of torture have been noted. Security forces also indulge in unrestrained and indiscriminate use of force than is usually necessary to maintain law and order. ACHR added that victims of police beating reported that the Riot Fighting Forces (RFF) shot them with rubber bullets from a distance of only 3 meters although they could have been easily arrested.27 The NCMVT stressed the need to follow up on all recommendations adopted by United Nations Committee Against Torture in2005. According to Front Line Defenders of Human Rights Defenders (FL), human rights defenders continue to face high levels of insecurity and are victims of various forms of repression, such as arbitrary arrest, judicial proceedings based on false or unfounded charges of ‘encouraging hatred of the state and distributing falsehoods and rumours, threats, physical assaults, ill-treatment, torture and numerous other acts of harassment by the authorities and government security forces.” ACHR and FIDH/BCHR/BHRS echoed similar concerns. According to FL, many human rights defenders are constantly under surveillance by the authorities. AI added that human rights defenders have also been charged in the past with crimes such as “insulting the judiciary”, “defamation and slander of a family court judge”, and other charges which are believed to be politically motivated. [A number of NGOs] noted some of the prominent human rights defenders who have been victimized…[and] also noted cases of other activists being harassed by the police to the extent of being physically attacked during protests or while in custody….. FL urged the authorities to prioritize the protection of human rights defenders in Bahrain and to: conduct an independent inquiry into the source of threats, ill treatment, torture, and all forms of intimidation and harassment directed towards all those human rights defenders mentioned in its report; and ensure that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are free to carry out their human rights activities free from persecution. FL also recommended that Bahrain invite the United NationsSpecial Representative for Human Rights Defenders to visit the country. During the year, the National Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture (NCMVT) reported there were no known instances of officials being punished for human rights abuses committed. [Other NGOs] added that the judiciary (both courts and public prosecution) has refused to examine cases lodged by victims of State abuses, thereby highlighting the need for securing the independence of the judiciary towards the ruling establishment. According to HRW, decree 56/2002 confers immunity from investigation or prosecution of individuals, including government officials, for offences committed prior to 2001 and the Government has cited this decree on several occasions as the basis for refusing to undertake criminal investigations against former officials who were the subject of complaints by citizens, alleging that those officials had subjectedthem to torture. HRW indicated that such use of Decree 56/2002 is inconsistent with Bahrain’sobligations as a State Party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. NCMVT also raised this issue” Outcome Report of the Working Group:Unfortunately however, the Outcome Report of the Working Group on the UPR made only passing reference to Bahrain’s obligations under the Convention against Torture and no reference at all to Decree 56 or to the resulting impunity for acts of torture. The only (limited) reference in this regard came from Jordan, which “…requested more information on the way in which [Bahrain] has proceeded to guarantee monotheism and freedom of expression. While welcoming Bahrain’s achievements, [Jordan] called on Bahrain to follow the example of other countries, for instance in the area of impunity”. Bahrain’s Views on the Conclusions:In its Views on the Conclusions/ Recommendations, Bahrain made general statements ofintent to improve the human rights situation in Bahrain, without specifically making any specific reference to the amnesty laws or commitment to amending Decree 56.23 Conclusion: Issues of Concern_ The continued practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment inBahrain._ The failure to guarantee the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman anddegrading treatment and punishment in all circumstances, and to conduct thorough andimpartial investigations into all credible allegations of torture and related unlawfulconduct, and to bring the perpetrators to justice and enable victims and their families toaccess civil redress._ The failure to respect the rights of human rights defenders, opposition activists andothers to free assembly, association and speech, and to guarantee that unlawfulexactions against such groups are put to an end.