For more than 10 months, Bahrain has been shaken by strikes and demonstrations calling for freedoms to be respected and for the introduction of democracy. From the outset, the security services and the army responded with considerable violence, resulting in the deaths of more than 40 people; hundreds more were arrested. Although clashes are now less frequent, the regime continues to carry out brutal repression.
Subjugation by violence
Hundreds of people suspected of having taken part in demonstrations or supporting demonstrators have been arrested and subjected to physical abuse or even torture. The repression has particularly targeted members of the political opposition and human rights activists, but it has also cracked down on trade unionists, teachers, students, writers, journalists and ordinary demonstrators. The victims include many women and girls.
Several members of the armed forces and police who have shown solidarity with the demonstrators or have hesitated to use repressive measures against them have been tortured, some of them to death.
The repression has reached as far as hospitals and other medical facilities, where the security forces have used violence against patients who were wounded in the demonstrations. Dozens of doctors and nurses have been arrested and tortured because they had treated demonstrators.
In addition, thousands of students, doctors, teachers, police officers and soldiers, among other workers, have been suspended or fired and have been told by the authorities that they will only get their jobs back if they sign an oath of allegiance to the King.
Large-scale judicial repression
On 15 March, the King decreed a state of emergency. On this basis the National Security Court was set up, a special hybrid court made up of military and civilian judges, which then found dozens of civilians guilty of offences such as ‘participating in an illegal assembly’, ‘inciting hatred of the regime’ or ‘disseminating false rumours’.
Despite the lifting of the state of emergency on 1 June, trials before the National Security Court continued for several months. The civilian courts have now taken over and have already imposed heavy sentences on people with links to the protest movement.
Tortured and condemned for their opinions
On 28 September 2011, the Appeal Court of Bahrain’s National Security Court upheld the judgment of 22 June by the court of first instance against 21 Bahraini members of the political opposition and human rights activists, who were given prison sentences varying from two years to life, because of their participation in the protest movement. They were accused of trying to overthrow the monarchy, insulting the army, forming a terrorist group and being in contact with a foreign terrorist organisation.
Fourteen of those accused were arrested in April, at night and without a warrant being produced, and were held in secret, at least for the first ten days. Many of them suffered torture during their arrest and detention.