Skip to main content

Report: Bahraini police beat, torture detainees

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:39 AM EDT, Mon April 30, 2012
Bahraini Shiite Muslims march during a demonstration in the village of Jidhafs, west of Manama, on April 27, 2012.
Bahraini Shiite Muslims march during a demonstration in the village of Jidhafs, west of Manama, on April 27, 2012.
  • NEW: "The allegations are absurd," a Bahraini government spokesman says
  • Beating and torture is continuing at informal facilities, Human Rights Watch says
  • A report says Bahrain has made "rapid progress" eliminating torture inside police stations
  • The report calls on Bahraini officials to investigate and punish abuses "when the cameras are off"

(CNN) -- Police in Bahrain regularly resort to beating anti-government protesters, despite officials' pledges to stop such practices, a human rights group said Sunday.

A Bahraini government spokesman denied that allegation and others made in the Human Rights Watch report.

"The allegations are absurd, and unfortunately, we ask for human rights organizations not to rely on unreliable sources," said government spokesman Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa.

Human Rights Watch said interviews revealed at least five instances in the past month in which police severely beat detainees -- some of whom were minors, according to a report issued after representatives from the group finished a five-day visit to the island nation.

ITN reporter kicked out of Bahrain

Visible injury marks appeared to confirm details of accounts from former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch, the organization said.

Bahrain's Grand Prix finishes
Tensions grow in Bahrain

Treatment of prisoners inside police stations and formal detention facilities has improved, Human Rights Watch said, and Bahrain appears to have made "rapid progress" in eliminating torture inside police stations after a committee last year recommended installing video cameras there.

But now, according to Human Rights Watch, beating and torture of prisoners is continuing at informal facilities and in secluded outdoor areas, where detainees have been taken for up to two hours before they're transferred to police stations.

"Bahrain's leaders need to make clear that they will investigate and punish those responsible for abuses when the cameras are off," Human Rights Watch said.

The Bahraini government spokesman said Human Rights Watch's relationship with political activists "is such that they don't check the legitimacy or facts behind the allegations."

CNN has not independently confirmed the rights group's report.

Al Khalifa said the government has taken steps to implement recommendations made by an independent commission last year. Dozens of officers are currently being investigated under a new government system to look into torture allegations, he said.

Sunday's Human Rights Watch report comes amid growing global scrutiny of the human rights situation in the Gulf state.

Earlier this month opposition groups in Bahrain and politicians around the world called for officials to cancel a Formula 1 race as violent clashes continued between activists and authorities. The Bahrain Grand Prix continued as scheduled, but protesters used the international spotlight on the race to call for the release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a detained human rights activist who has been on a hunger strike for more than two months.

The activist, who was arrested last April for his role in anti-government demonstrations that swept through his country, is protesting his life prison sentence. Last June, al-Khawaja and seven other Shiite opposition activists were found guilty of plotting to overthrow the country's Sunni royal family.

On Sunday, Bahrain's information ministry denied that it was force-feeding al-Khawaja, saying in statement that al-Khawaja gave consent for doctors to insert a naso-gastric tube for nutrition after his blood sugar dropped.

Demonstrations in Bahrain failed to gain the traction of other Arab Spring uprisings after a crackdown by authorities in the island state, backed by troops from nearby Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In November of last year, Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry issued a report critical of authorities' reactions to the protests, which began in February 2011, spurred by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

The independent commission, set up by Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, found that between February and April of last year, 35 people were killed in unrest there.

Two senior international advisers to Bahrain's chief of public security told Human Rights Watch they had visited some of the informal facilities identified by the group, but found no evidence of detainees being taken there and mistreated. The chief said the government planned to improve police training to stop abuse, according to Human Rights Watch.

Earlier this month, the state-run Bahrain News Agency published a statement responding to another report by Human Rights Watch that alleged Bahrain had not lived up to its commitments on reform.

The nation's Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development dismissed the criticism as rash, saying that Human Rights Watch report "had ignored the positive developments in the country and the continuation of the reform process," and that it was committed to the protection of human rights.

CNN's Elizabeth Joseph, Mohammed Jamjoom and Peter Wilkinson contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.