Rights groups slam Bahrain for torturing 9 female activists in detention

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An illustrative photo of nine Bahraini activists, who were subjected to rights abuses in detention, taken from the front page of a report by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain.

Rights groups have slammed the Bahraini regime over the detention and mistreatment of nine female activists, saying that the United States and Britain are complicit in Manama’s human rights abuses.

The report, prepared by the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) last month, was presented during a congressional panel event in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

The 138-page report examines the cases of nine female political prisoners all arrested, interrogated, and convicted between February 2017 and January 2019.

Speaking during the panel, ADHRB Legal Officer Bridget Quitter said the women had been targeted as part of Bahrain's “systematic” crackdown on free speech.

“The ill-treatment and torture, coercive interrogation tactics, unfair trial, substandard conditions of detention are not merely coincidental, but part of a systematic repression of the Bahraini population,” she said. “These women were targeted for their opinions or those of their relatives.”

The study revealed that the women had been arrested without search warrants, some of which took place during “highly militarized police raids.” The women faced physical, psychological and sexual abuse during their interrogation, according to the report.

Of the nine women, three are still held in prison in dire conditions, such as being denied access to medical care. The other six have been released after serving their prison terms.

Speaking on Tuesday, Quitter explained that the female activists had been convicted based on forced confessions, and even threatened with rape and death if they refused to comply.

“They were subjected to rights violations from the moment of their arrest, through their interrogation and torture, unfair trials and detention in conditions which fail to meet international standards,” Quitter said.

The report also highlighted how Manama had been using “broad interpretations of counter-terror laws” to facilitate the conviction of the female activists, going as far as revoking citizenship in a number of cases.

“Bahrain has created a system which whitewashes and conceals human rights abuses,” Quitter said.

The Al Khalifah regime has been mounting a heavy-handed security crackdown since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

The protest campaign is demanding that a just system representing all Bahrainis replace the Al Khalifah ruling dynasty.

Enjoying extensive assistance from the Saudi kingdom and the backing of London and Washington, however, the Manama regime has sought to crush any perceived threat to its authoritarian rule.

The report, which was presented on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, also revealed that UK-funded and trained “oversight bodies” have “consistently whitewashed” Bahrain’s human rights abuses. London actively ignores that “taxpayer money” is being used to support such initiatives, it added.

The report also said that the US government provides “funding, training, and assistance to Bahraini government bodies implicated in human rights abuses.”

The rights groups have called on Bahrain to release the three remaining female prisoners and urged the US and UK to cooperate in improving human rights conditions in the country.

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