Constitutional Provisions

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. 

Treaty Adherence


Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
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
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Signatory


Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
2004 Arab Charter on Human Rights State Party

National Legislation

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.

Police Oversight

In 2012, the Bahraini Ministry of Interior set up the role of the Ombudsman as an independent oversight body by Royal Decree. The Ombudsman publishes an annual report with statistics, a directorate of internal audit and investigations, and examples of investigations conducted.Ombudsman Ministry of Interior Bahrain, Reports, at:

Civil society organisations have pointed out the Ombudsman Office’s lack of independence from the Bahraini Ministry of the Interior and its failure to address impunity within the security forces. The organisation Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain states regarding the sixth periodic report covering May 2018 to April 2019:

As in previous years, complaints are rarely referred to relevant bodies, and even less are referred for formal prosecution. This emboldens members of the MOI to continue perpetrating abuses, adding to the culture of impunity in the kingdom. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) stresses that Bahrain’s MOI Ombudsman is not independent and is unable to uphold its mandate, and further condemns the annual report as a way of whitewashing the Ombudsman’s failures.Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, "Sixth Annual Report of Bahrain’s MOI Ombudsman Shows a Continued Failure to Address Impunity within Security Forces", 7 October 2019, at:, para 1.

A 2016 report by Amnesty International recalls that

the Ombudsman’s budget derives from the Ministry of Interior, to which the police and prisons service report, although the Ombudsman says he directly controls his office’s own budget subject only to financial audit by the National Audit Court. Second, prior to his appointment, the current Ombudsman headed Bahrain’s PPO [Public Prosecution Office], including in 2011 when many opposition leaders and activists were detained, tortured and imprisoned after grossly unfair trials. This has created a perception in some quarters of closeness to the government and association with its policies that runs counter to notions of independence and impartiality. The loosely defined grounds on which the Minister of Interior can remove the Ombudsman from office also give cause for concern.Amnesty International, "Window-Dressing or Pioneers of Change? – An Assessment of Bahrain’s Human Rights Oversight Bodies", 2016, at:, p. 18.

Decree No. (61) of 2013 established a Commission for the Rights of Prisoners and Detainees under the chairmanship of the Secretary General of the Ombudsman at the Ministry of the Interior.Legislation & Legal Opinion Commission, Decree No. (61) of 2013, at:



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In its 2018 Concluding Observations on Bahrain,Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of Bahrain, 15 November 2018, paras. 35 and 36.the Human Rights Committee expressed concern about “reports of excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force and allegations of enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention and threats against civilians involved in peaceful demonstrations for political and democratic change in 2011”. It also expressed concern over “reports indicating a recent increase in the use of violence by law enforcement officials during peaceful demonstrations, including reports of 6 fatal incidents during demonstrations and 10 other extrajudicial killings in 2017”. 

The Committee called on the authorities to 

fully investigate, in accordance with international standards, all allegations of involvement by members of its law enforcement and security forces in the killing of civilians, excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment from 2011 onward. Furthermore, the State party should initiate criminal proceedings against the alleged perpetrators of such acts, sentence convicted perpetrators and afford victims integral reparation, including adequate compensation. … it should take measures to effectively prevent and eradicate all excessive use of force by law enforcement and security officials, including by guaranteeing that such officials receive systematic training on the use of force, taking due account of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

Regarding the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, the Committee expressed concern about reports that acts of torture and ill treatment 

are often committed by law enforcement officials, including as a means of eliciting confessions, that, despite the prohibition in domestic law, confessions obtained under duress have been used as evidence in court and that allegations made by defendants in this respect have not been adequately investigated. The Committee is also concerned about reports of torture in prisons, particularly in the Jau prison. It notes with concern the lack of information on investigations carried out and convictions handed down vis-à-vis the number of complaints of torture and ill-treatment.Human Rights Committee: Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of Bahrain, 15 November 2018, para. 37.

The Committee called on Bahrain to:

(a) Take vigorous steps to prevent torture and ill-treatment and ensure that all such cases are promptly, independently and thoroughly investigated, that perpetrators are brought to justice and that victims receive full reparation;
(b) Set up an accessible, independent and effective complaint mechanism to combat torture;
(c) Collect accurate data on cases of torture and ill-treatment and related prosecutions, convictions and sentences and make those data public;
(d) Ensure that confessions obtained in violation of article 7 of the Covenant [on Civil and Political Rights] are not accepted by courts under any circumstances, that allegations made by defendants that a statement was made under torture or ill-treatment are promptly and adequately investigated, and that the burden of proving that confessions were made voluntarily falls on State authorities;
(e) Provide security forces and other law enforcement personnel with effective training on torture prevention and humane treatment.Human Rights Committee: Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of Bahrain, 15 November 2018, para. 38.

In its 2022 human rights report on Bahrain, the United States Department of State notes that 46 members of the security forces were reported by the authorities to have been questioned for mistreating prisoners. 

One officer was tried in the military court and received a disciplinary action. A Ministry of Interior corporal was initially sentenced to one year in prison for mistreating a prisoner, but his sentence was subsequently reduced to three months on appeal. Four other members of the police force received disciplinary sanctions including a reprimand and delayed promotion. On December 20, a low criminal court heard the case of a policewoman who mistreated a woman prisoner. On December 27, a high criminal court heard and postponed the case of four security personnel who mistreated three prisoners. The two cases were pending at year’s end.US Department of State, 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bahrain, pp. 4-5, at:


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.


2002 Constitution of Bahrain

Decree 24 of 2014 on Police Use of Force (Arabic original)

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on Bahrain (2018)

2012 Police Code of Conduct

Committee against Torture Concluding Observations on Bahrain (2017)

2011 Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry