Bahraini watchdog alleges widespread sexual abuse, torture in prisons
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Bahraini watchdog alleges widespread sexual abuse, torture in prisons

Exiled rights group documents what it says are systemic abuses against detainees ensnared in years-long crackdown

Bahraini activist Ebrahim Sarhan speaks during a press conference by SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights in Beirut, Lebanon, on April 25, 2019. (AP/Hassan Ammar)
Bahraini activist Ebrahim Sarhan speaks during a press conference by SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights in Beirut, Lebanon, on April 25, 2019. (AP/Hassan Ammar)

BEIRUT — A Bahraini rights group said Thursday that sexual abuse and torture have been widespread and systematic in jails in the Gulf island nation during a years-long crackdown.

The SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights group released a 30-page report documenting abuses it says “use the most intimate and personal parts of a person in order to inflict suffering.”

The report was released in Beirut because the group is barred in Bahrain.

At the release, Bahraini citizen Ebrahim Sarhan recounted the torture he was subjected to in 2017, describing how he was stripped naked in front of other inmates as officials threatened to “bring in a bottle” — a veiled threat of sodomy.

Sarhan, also a legal adviser to SALAM, said sexual torture has been ongoing since 2011 and there are no exact figures of how many men and women have been subjected to torture. However, the numbers are in the dozens, he said.

Bahrain, which is conducting a years-long crackdown on dissent, has dismissed such allegations in the past. It didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Sima Watling, Amnesty International Gulf researcher, said sexual torture usually takes place during interrogation in Bahrain and many former detainees refuse to speak about it to avoid being “stigmatized by one’s own family and community.”

“Whereas it is difficult for Amnesty International to state that sexual assault of detainees is systematic, it is certain that this practice has taken place and continues to take place and we consider it to be an act of torture,” she said.

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