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Bahrain: cancellation of UN torture expert's visit shows country is 'not serious' about human rights

‘The authorities have used the buzzword of “reform” as a smoke-screen, when in reality they are not reforming’ - Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui 

Bahrain is clearly “not serious” about implementing human rights reforms, Amnesty International said today after the Gulf kingdom cancelled a planned visit by the United Nations’ torture expert for a second time.

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, said he was "deeply disappointed" after Bahrain postponed next month’s visit, citing delays in “ongoing national dialogue”.

The Bahraini authorities also cancelled a visit by Juan Mendez in February last year, claiming they were “still undergoing major reforms”. This latest postponement comes amid continued clashes between protesters and security forces, which increased in the run-up to last weekend's controversial Formula One Grand Prix.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui  said:

“This latest cancellation shows that Bahrain is clearly not serious about implementing human rights reforms.

“The authorities have used the buzzword of ‘reform’ as a smoke-screen, when in reality they are not reforming. There are no reforms in Bahrain, but rather human rights abuses continuing unabated.

"The Bahraini government must immediately release all prisoners of conscience and conduct independent, effective and transparent investigations into allegations of torture.

“Bahrain’s allies have been far too keen to rely on the facade of reform and to go on with business as usual. The cancellation of the visit means there is no pretending anymore.”

Juan Mendez said:

“This is the second time my visit has been postponed at very short notice. The authorities seem to view my visit as an obstacle rather than a positive factor to the reform process.”

The independent torture expert had previously urged Bahrain to honour commitments it made to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review process last September. These included releasing people jailed for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and investigating allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of those detained after anti-government protests. At the last session of the UN Human Rights Council, 43 states criticised ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain.

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