Lack of Reform in Bahrain, Says Amnesty

April 17, 2012 Updated: April 17, 2012

The Bahrain government has not done nearly enough to reform itself and follow recommendations proposed by an independent inquiry last year in the wake of Arab Spring protests, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

The small Gulf island nation is slated to hold a Formula 1 championship race Sunday despite international and domestic criticism that the ruling family is using the event to gloss over its human rights record. Abuses were widely reported last year when security forces clamped down hard on mass protests.

“The authorities are trying to portray the country as being on the road to reform, but we continue to receive reports of torture and use of unnecessary and excessive force against protests. Their reforms have only scratched the surface,” stated Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry released a report in November that was critical of the government’s reaction to mass unrest that began in February 2011.

The report documented instances of torture and of using excessive force to deal with protesters. It also called on the Al-Khalifa family to instate reforms.

The protests stopped after state forces cracked down, backed by troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“With the world’s eyes on Bahrain as it prepares to host the Grand Prix, no one should be under any illusions that the country’s human rights crisis is over,” Sahraoui added.

Amnesty said that the government’s claims that it would only hold members of security forces responsible for violations against protesters were problematic. Only a small number of low-ranking police and security officers have been tried.

Formula 1 drivers are heading to Bahrain for a championship-level race, despite hundreds of protesters clashing with police in recent days, media reports on Tuesday said.