ADHRB says ‘invisible wounds’ prevent political prisoners from resuming normal lives after arrest.
Political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain are suffering from the long-term effects of torture and other alleged abuses they suffered during arrest, interrogation and imprisonment, a new report says.
The nonprofit Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) said on Monday it had found through interviews and medical reports that many victims were unable to resume normal lives because of “invisible wounds” that remain years after the alleged abuse.
The report (PDF) quotes one of the victims as saying he was arrested while showering and dragged naked into the street, where he was beaten.
He developed anger and irritability and a deep-seated fear of being arrested again or of something happening to his family members. Fear of reprisals due to threats from the security forces later prevented him from going to therapy.
Another victim told the organization that she was forced to strip naked during interrogation and was sexually assaulted, whipped, insulted and threatened to rape and kill her children.
After the event, she developed difficulty focusing or making decisions, slept for long periods of time, experienced self-hatred, and contemplated suicide.
According to ADHRB, mental health services are not available in the prison, where Bahraini authorities practice “extreme forms of medical negligence”, denying prisoners their basic rights.
Authorities do not acknowledge the abuse, even when the prisoner is committed to a psychiatric hospital, the report said.
The psychological effect of torture inevitably spills over into the social life of victims because the way they interact with their environment is largely defined by their mental health. Men were less likely to seek support out of a desire to appear “strong” and “tough”, the ADHRB said, while female survivors of sexual assault and rape struggled to maintain social and intimate relationships.
The organization called for greater transparency and an impartial investigation into allegations of torture. It also argued that Bahrain should pay compensation for torture victims “as well as psychological support programs for victims’ families to raise awareness and empower them to create a safe environment for victims”.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), among other international organisations, has criticized Bahrain, a majority Shiite country ruled by a Sunni monarchy, for spending the past decade “cracking down on peaceful opposition”.
Last year, HRW said the government was using “political isolation laws” and a variety of other tactics to keep the opposition out of public office and other aspects of public life.
The government’s large-scale crackdown has intensified since a peaceful pro-democracy and anti-government uprising in 2011. As of 2017, Bahraini authorities have banned independent media organizations in the country and dissolved all significant opposition groups.
The government of Bahrain did not comment on the ADHRB report. He previously rejected accusations of human rights abuses and denied discriminating against his Shia citizens.