Wednesday, February 10, 2010


This morning we had an excellent seminar given by Joe Stork and Joshua Colangelo-Bryan of Human Rights Watch on their just-published report Torture Redux: The Revival of Physical Coercion during Interrogations in Bahrain. By a combination of interviews with people who had been tortured in custody, and documentary evidence including medical reports, HRW demonstrates beyond doubt that torture as a means of extorting confessions from detainees, has become common again, after a period following the accession of Sheikh Hamad when it was in abeyance. Joshua said that it wasn't just a case of misconduct by individual interrogators; the sheer extent of the evidence and the fact that no reports had been made by officials of the Internal Affairs Department- responsible for investigating abuse of detainees - or of the Public Prosecution Office, who are supposed to interview detainees in the presence of their lawyer within 48 hours of arrest, makes it clear that torture is condoned by the authorities.

HRW are making 14 detailed recommendations to the government of Bahrain - which is a signatory of the Convention Against Torture - and are asking the governments of the US, France and the UK to urge the government of Bahrain to comply with them. They want the training provided to Bahrain's security forces by the three states to be made conditional on the ending of torture, and of impunity for the officials who order, carry out or acquiesce in acts of torture.

Parliament has now risen for a 10-day recess, so questions to Ministers on the Government's response to these recommendations will have to wait. In the meanwhile I'm writing to Ivan Lewis MP, the Minister at the FCO who deals with the Middle East, drawing his attention to the HRW report and its recommendations.

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