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Bahraini police officer accused of torture promoted to government position

(BCHR/IFEX) - 4 February 2013 - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is concerned about the culture of impunity that governs the police forces in Bahrain, and allows for officers accused of torture to be promoted, instead of prosecuted.

Credible torture allegations have been made against police officer Bassam Al-Muraj for several years by local and international human rights organizations. In 2010, Human Rights Watch published the findings of an investigation they conducted in Bahrain, and concluded that there were many allegations that linked Al-Muraj to systematic torture in the Bahraini prison system. A video released by BCHR, also from 2010, contains testimonies from victims who implicate Al-Muraj in the torture they were subjected to.

One victim described the torture under Al-Muraj's supervision: “Bassam Al-Muraj asked Al-Budayia policemen to leave me alone with him. They took me to a room where they started beating me. Kicking, hitting and other things. It lasted five minutes. Then they removed my handcuffs, wrapped my hands with a strip of cloth, made me stand on a chair then let me hang from the ceiling.”

Another victim said: “It was cold, and the officer was sweating, Bassam Al-Muraj himself said to me – I swear to God I will bring your wife here, in front of you, and I will remove her clothes in front of you.”

Instead of ordering an investigation into these allegations, the King has promoted Al-Muraj to general director of the anti-corruption, economic, and electronic security department at the General Directorate, with a royal decree issued on 28 January 2013. BCHR expresses its extreme disagreement with this decision, and calls for an end to the culture of impunity that rewards human rights abuses. Reform will never be realized in Bahrain as long as officers are free to act without fear of reprisals.

The King's decision to not pursue accountability is a clear indication that the government of Bahrain is not interested in reforming the police forces. This is why torture remains to be a serious problem in Bahrain, and BCHR continues to receive a large volume of reports of torture allegations.

BCHR calls for:

- an immediate investigation, both fair and transparent, into the allegations of torture against Bassam Al-Muraj and the dozens of other security officers who have been implicated in torture and other human rights abuses;
- compensation and reparations for the victims of torture, and the setting-up of a rehabilitation center for victims of torture;
- an end to the culture of impunity that governs the police forces, and sweeping reforms to ensure that transparency and accountability are guaranteed;
- for the government of Bahrain to sign the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in order to strengthen legal accountability for torturers.

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