Bahrain is a hereditary monarchy. King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa is the head of state and holds ultimate authority over most government decisions. The king appoints the prime minister, the head of government, who is not required to be a member of parliament. Since 2020, the position has been held by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. The cabinet, or Council of Ministers, consists of 24 ministers. The parliament comprises an upper house appointed by the king, the Shura (Consultative) Council, and an elected Council of Representatives, each with 40 seats. Parliament can propose laws but does not draft legislation. The country held parliamentary and municipal elections on November 12 and runoff elections on November 19. The government did not permit international election monitors, and the elections were not considered fair due to several restrictions on the process and the inability of political parties earlier dissolved by the government to participate. Domestic monitors, including from independent civil society organizations, generally concluded authorities administered the elections without significant procedural irregularities.
The Ministry of Interior is responsible for internal security and oversees police and specialized security units responsible for maintaining internal order; the Coast Guard is also under its jurisdiction. The National Guard is responsible for protecting industrial installations and is a back-up to the police. The chief of the National Intelligence Agency, appointed by royal decree, reports to the prime minister. While the agency has arrest authority, it reportedly did not conduct arrests during the year. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; political prisoners; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including censorship and enforcement or threat to enforce criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental and civil society organizations; restrictions on freedom of movement, residence, and the right to leave the country; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; and significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association.
The government prosecuted and sentenced security force members responsible for physically assaulting prisoners, following investigations by government institutions. The government took steps to investigate allegations of corruption and prosecute government officials. Nongovernmental human rights organizations claimed investigations lacked transparency.
For Further Reference
Full U.S. Department of State Human Rights Country Report
U.S. Department of State International Religious Freedom Country Report
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Annual Report Chapter on Bahrain
U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report Country Narrative
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
Human Rights Watch World Report Country Chapter
Amnesty International Annual Report Country Chapter
Freedom House Freedom in the World Country Report