The 2002 Constitution of Bahrain guarantees certain fundamental human rights, including the right to dignity and freedom from discrimination, but does not explicitly protect the right to life:
People are equal in human dignity, and citizens are equal before the law in public rights and duties. There shall be no discrimination among them on the basis of sex, origin, language, religion or creed.Art. 18, 2002 Constitution of Bahrain.
Article 19 guarantees personal freedom under the lawArt. 19(a), 2002 Constitution of Bahrain.and prohibits physical or mental torture or "undignified treatment".Art. 19(a), 2002 Constitution of Bahrain.Article 20 prohibits retroactive penal sanctions for criminal offences as well as punishment without a legal basis:
There shall be no crime and no punishment except under a law, and punishment only for acts committed subsequent to the effective date of the law providing for the same.Art. 20, 2002 Constitution of Bahrain.
The Constitution also guarantees the right of peaceful assembly:
Individuals are entitled to assemble privately without a need for permission or prior notice, and no member of the security forces may attend their private meetings.
Public meetings, parades and assemblies are permitted under the rules and conditions laid down by law, but the purposes and means of the meeting must be peaceful and must not be prejudicial to public decency.Art. 28, 2002 Constitution of Bahrain.
The Constitution does not refer to the national police force, though it is stipulated that: "Only the State may establish the Defense Force, National Guard, and Public Security services."Art. 30(b), 2002 Constitution of Bahrain.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Signatory|
|2004 Arab Charter on Human Rights||State Party|
Police Use of Force
The Public Security Forces (PSF), formerly known as the Bahrain State Police, are the principal law enforcement agency of the Ministry of Interior of Bahrain. Following strong criticism by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry of the use of force by the PSF (see below), in 2014 Bahrain amended its domestic law to reflect the provisions of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.Decree No. 24 of 2014 of the Minister of the Interior.The 2012 Police Code of Conduct also addresses the use of force by law enforcement in a number of important provisions:
- Police officers shall use force only in accordance with the principles provided for in Bahraini law and the international conventions that specify when and where such force may be used.
- Force shall not be used except when absolutely necessary or where it is used in self-defence in accordance with the law.
- Deadly force can only be used by an officer where it is the last resort to defend against aggression against the police officer, or where it is necessary in order to save the officer’s life or the lives of others.
- Police officers commit to the principle of using only such force as is proportional to the danger posed to life or public or private property.
- The use of live weaponry should be considered a last resort, and every effort should be made to avoid it.
- Once the reason for using force no longer exists then the use of force must end.S. III, 2012 Police Code of Conduct.
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
The 2014 Reform and Correctional Facilities Act provides that force
may not be used against inmates and persons held on remand except where necessary to prevent acts of violence or attempts to escape, or to overcome resistance or failure to comply with orders.Art. 59, Act No. 18 of 2014.
It is further stipulated that arms "may not be used against inmates except as follows":
- Against any form of attack or resistance accompanied by the use of force, if other means cannot be used;
- To sedate revolt by the inmates if they are armed with lethal weapons, which they refuse to surrender when ordered to do so;
- To prevent the escape of inmates if that cannot be prevented by any other means.Art. 61, Act No. 18 of 2014.
It is further required:
that the use of arms is necessary and proportionate to the immediate danger; that it is a means of averting that danger; that measures are taken to ascertain that it serves to prevent the persons against whom the arms are employed from attacking, opposing resistance or escaping; that warning shots are first fired into the air whenever possible and that, thereafter, efforts be made to avoid lethal impact.Art. 62, Act No. 18 of 2014.
There is no independent police oversight body in Bahrain.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
The 2017 Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture did not address the issue of use of force by the Bahraini police.
There is no regional court established under the 2004 Arab Charter of Human Rights.
Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) was set up by the King of Bahrain on 29 June 2011 to consider respect for human rights during unrest in the country in February and March 2011. The BICI, which was chaired by Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, published its report on 23 November 2011. It found that the security forces had used excessive force, including lethal force, against demonstrators. This use of force
violated the principles of necessity and proportionality, which are the generally applicable legal principles in matters relating to the use of force by law enforcement officials. This is evident in both the choice of weapons that were used by these forces during confrontations with civilians and the manner in which these weapons were used.Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, 2011, §1112.
While the Commission did not find evidence of a policy of lethal force, it did conclude that the security forces
used force and firearms in situations where this was unnecessary and in a manner that was disproportionate.Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, 2011, §1119.
The Commission found that in the use of shotguns, the security forces "did not, at all times, strictly comply with their legal obligation to target the individuals in a manner that would disable or incapacitate the individual."Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, 2011, §1115.The Commission further concluded that rubber bullets were fired "in a manner that did not aim to cause minimal injuries to civilians".Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, 2011, §1116.The Commission also found that the disproportionate use of tear gas for the dispersion of protesters:
On many occasions, the number of tear gas canisters fired at protesters was disproportionate to the size of the demonstration and the number of participants. In a number of situations, tear gas canisters were fired at private homes, in a manner that was unnecessary and indiscriminate.Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, 2011, §1117.
The Commission found that excessive force was used at the checkpoints that were set up on various roads in many areas of Bahrain. Individuals who were suspected of having participated in or sympathised with the protests that occurred in Bahrain were beaten, kicked, and physically harassed.Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, 2011, §1118.