OPINION: Human Rights Violations Ramp Up in Bahrain

Bahrain’s legal system is designed to intimidate and persecute political dissidents. As Human Rights Watch describes, courts convict human rights defenders and the political opposition on trumped-up charges, even stripping some of citizenship and deporting them. Since August 2019, Bahrain has committed several more dire human rights violations—with impunity, as usual.

On September 3, Bahraini authorities refused to let prisoner Abdel-Jalil al-Singace access medical care. Authorities arrested Al-Singace on “unfounded charges” of “setting up terror groups,” according to Amnesty International, for playing a leading role in the opposition movement that led the protests in 2011. In August, years into his life sentence, he began experiencing chest pains and shakiness. A prison doctor diagnosed him with heart muscle tension and scheduled an appointment with a heart specialist in a Bahraini hospital. However, when Al-Singace initially refused to wear shackles and a prison uniform to the appointment, the guards refused to take him to the hospital.

Later that month, the Washington Post reported that a Bahraini court refused to grant Nabeel Rajab, who has been imprisoned since 2016 for tweets critical of the government, a noncustodial sentence request, which would allow him to serve his sentence under house arrest.

On September 26, Asharq Al-Awsat reported that a Bahraini court convicted four men of terrorist financing and participating in the formation of a terrorist group. These arrests follow a series of similar convictions handed down in the past months. However, as Human Rights Watch explains, these trials are usually unfair, and security officers often extract confessions through torture.

Bahrain continues to crack down on dissent and opposition without consequence. Bahrain takes advantage of its alignment with the West—which includes allowing the U.S. to operate a naval base—to avoid heavy criticism of its domestic policies. In fact, the Department of State boasts that its assistance to Bahrain “improves Bahrain’s ability to deny terrorist sponsorship, support, and sanctuary in a manner that respects the human rights of its residents.” Such a statement is rather tone-deaf in light of the waves of arbitrary arrests and convictions in the name of alleged anti-terrorism.