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UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez (Photo: Radio Australia)


For the second consecutive time, the Bahraini government has told the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to delay his planned visit to Bahrain. A statement on the state-run news agency yesterday said that Bahrain’s Minister for Human Rights delivered an official letter to Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez “outlining reasons for the request to postpone the visit”, however those reasons have not yet been revealed to the public.

This is not the first time that the Special Rapporteur on Torture has had a planned trip to Bahrain cancelled by the government. Mendez had originally been scheduled to visit on March 8, 2012, however the on March 2, 2012, the Bahraini government told him to postpone the trip indefinitely.

This was eventually rescheduled for May 8, 2013, and as late as March 2013, Bahrain’s Minister for Human Rights said that the government welcomes Mendez’s visit, as it would “enable him to be informed [of] the tangible human rights achievements attained so far”. The state news agency boasted about Mendez’s praise for Bahrain’s approval of the scheduled May 2012 visit. Despite the fanfare, the government has now cancelled this visit, with no indication of when, or if, it will be rescheduled.

The denial of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is just the latest in a long list of international researchers, journalists, activists, and NGO workers who have been denied entry to Bahrain by the government for seemingly political reasons. In our Access Denied project, launched in January, Bahrain Watch identified over 200 such cases since the start of Bahrain’s Arab Spring protests in February 2011. Just four days ago, an ITV News team visiting Bahrain was stopped by authorities while filming and deported from the country, despite holding valid visas.

As noted by Special Rapporteur Mendez himself in an interview in June 2012:

The focuses of greatest concern are those countries which do not invite me, or which do invite me and then cancel, like Bahrain.

Background on torture in Bahrain:

  • Allegations of torture in Bahrain have been persistent since at least the mid-70s, when two Leftist political activists died in custody of security forces (under the command of the recently deceased British security chief Ian Henderson).
  • In 2000, King Hamad issued a controversial law granting amnesty to security officials who may have carried out torture or other human rights abuses prior to 2001.
  • In 2010, Human Rights Watch released an 89-page report about the revival of torture in Bahrain, based on testimonies and forensic evidence.
  • Following the start of the Arab Spring protests in Bahrain in February 2011, the reports of torture and mistreatment in custody abounded. The royally-appointed Bassiouni Commission found in its November 2011 report that torture during this period was both “systemic” and “systematic”.
  • In April 2013, a report published by REDRESS and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) concluded “that torture and ill-treatment continue, and that obligations towards victims have not been met”.

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