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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Country Profile

Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy. The King and many ministers are members of the Sunni al-Khalifa ruling family. The parliament consists of an appointed upper house, the Shura (Consultative) Council, and the elected Council of Representatives, with 40 seats each. Turnout for the November 2014 elections was significantly lower in opposition districts, due in part to a decision to boycott the elections by the main opposition political societies and a lack of confidence among opposition communities in the electoral system.

During 2015, the most serious human rights problems included citizens’ limited ability to change their government peacefully; lack of due process in the legal system, including arrests without warrants or charges and lengthy pretrial detentions, used especially in cases against opposition members and political or human rights activists; and restrictions on free expression and assembly.

Other significant human rights problems included lack of judicial accountability for security officers accused by the government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) of committing human rights violations; defendants’ lack of access to attorneys and ability to challenge evidence; prison overcrowding; violations of privacy; and other restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of press and association. Societal discrimination continued against the Shia population, as did other forms of discrimination based on gender, religion, and nationality. The government at times imposed travel bans on political activists in conjunction with arrest charges and in some cases continued to enforce them after authorities had dropped charges or pardoned the individual. Despite government efforts at reform, the rights of foreign workers, particularly domestic workers, continued to be restricted, leaving them vulnerable to labor abuses and human trafficking.

Beginning in 2011 the country experienced a sustained period of unrest, including mass protests calling for political reform. The government has taken steps to address the “culture of impunity,” identified by the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, tasked with reviewing including allegations of police brutality, violence by protesters and demonstrators, arrests, disappearances, and torture earlier that year. International and local human rights organizations viewed the BICI report as the standard against which to measure the country’s human rights reforms and noted that the government had not fully implemented its recommendations, particularly those involving reconciliation, safeguarding freedom of expression, and accountability for abuses.


Abdulhadi al-Khawaja

Abduljalil Al-Singace

Ahmed Humaidan

Sheikh Ali Salman

Naji Fateel

Nabeel Rajab
Advocate: Rep. Jim
McGovern (D-MA)

Sharif, Hassan Mshaima, Abdel-Wahab Hussain, Abdel-Jalil al-Singace, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Salah al-Khawaja, Sa’eed Mirza al-Nuri and Mohamed Habibal-Miqdad are among fourteen opposition activists in Bahrain serving prison sentences handed down by a military court following anti-government protests in February and March 2011.  They were not given fair trials and some of them were reportedly tortured. They are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for peacefully expressing their opinions and their activism.  The 14 activists were arrested between March 17 and April 9, 2011.  In most cases, they were arrested in the middle of the night by several security officers who raided their houses and took them to an unknown location, where they were held incommunicado for weeks. In most cases, they were only allowed to see their lawyers and family during the first court hearing in May 2011.  Many of the 14 defendants alleged they were tortured during their first days of detention when they were being interrogated by officers from the National Security Agency (NSA), an investigating authority associated with the Ministry of Interior.  Many of them were then held incommunicado for weeks.  Some of the 14 were allowed to see their lawyers during questioning by the Military Prosecutor ahead of the trial, but they were not allowed to see their lawyers during NSA interrogations just after they were arrested.