US Commission on Religious Freedom Slams Bahraini Regime

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) criticized the Bahraini regime for its heavy-handed measures against Shiite Muslims.

US Commission on Religious Freedom Slams Bahraini Regime

In its 2015 annual report on Bahrain, USCIRF said, “Shiite Muslims continued to be detained and arrested arbitrarily throughout the year.”

The report added that the Bahraini regime “still has not adequately held high-level security officials accountable for serious abuses, which included targeting, imprisoning, torturing, and killing predominantly Shiite demonstrators.”

“Bahraini courts have tried, prosecuted, and convicted only a few lower-level police officers, with little or no transparency about the trials, convictions, and length of prison terms. The government has stated that there are ongoing investigations of commanding officers related to the 2011 abuses, but has not disclosed details,” it said.

The USCIRF also questioned the legality of the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, the 49-year-old leader of the main opposition group, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, and the charges leveled against him.

“Human rights defenders have said the charges are baseless, and UN experts have criticized them as violations of the freedoms of expression, association, and religion,” the USCIRF said.

It also called on the Al Khalifa regime to “implement recommendations from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to redress past abuses against Shiite Muslims and further improve religious freedom conditions” in the country, Press TV reported.

Citing interviews with the US embassy personnel, civil society representatives, members of religious communities, human rights groups, and human rights defenders in Bahrain, the report noted that “government and pro-government media continued to use inflammatory, sectarian rhetoric” in the country.

“According to interlocutors, members of the Shiite community still cannot serve in the active military, only in administrative positions, and there are no Shiite in the upper levels of the Bahrain government security apparatus, including the military and police,” the report said.

The USCIRF also called on the US government “to continue to press the Bahraini government to implement fully the BICI recommendations, including those related to freedom of religion and belief and accountability for past abuses against the Shiite community.”

It also urged the Bahraini government to “reimburse the Shiite community for expending its own funds to rebuild six mosques and religious structures that were demolished in 2011.”

The report came after 67 members of the European Parliament called on the European Union to exert pressure on the Bahraini regime to release the prisoners of conscience in the Arab kingdom.

In an open letter to the European bloc on April 30, the members expressed deep concern over continuing human rights violations in the Arab nation.

They demanded EU’s strong and urgent actions for the unconditional release of Sheikh Salman and the rights activist Nabeel Rajab. The two face long jail terms.

The signatories also asked for an independent investigation into all human rights violations committed in Bahrain since 2011.

They further stressed that the Manama regime must restore the revoked citizenship of its residents.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations on the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa family to relinquish power.

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