Washington April 13, 2011

Freedom House is deeply concerned about the deaths of four detainees in Bahrain in recent days and urges the government to investigate torture allegations and to cease its campaign of repression against Shiites and other dissenting voices. Yesterday, protester Karim Fakhrawi died in prison under suspicious circumstances, raising fears of torture and mistreatment of political opponents while they are in police custody. Fakhrawi was arrested on April 4 after participating in a street protest seeking political reforms in Bahrain. The state-run news agency reported that Fakhrawi died from kidney failure, but his family says that his body shows unequivocal signs of torture. Fakhrawi is the fourth protester to die while in custody in the past tendays. In all cases, families of the victims have reported that the bodies were returned to them with clear signs of physical abuse.

“What appears to be the widespread abuse of prisoners in detention centers, as well as the lack of information on the whereabouts of those arrested, is deeply alarming,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “Freedom House calls on Bahraini authorities to take immediate steps to adhere to international standards for due process and the treatment of prisoners.”

Opposition party Al Wefaq reports over 400 arrests since the protests began in mid-February, while some groups estimate as many as 600 people are currently detained. At least 30 people are reported to have died. Abdulhabi Alkhawaja, former regional coordinator at FrontLine and former head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was arrested on April 9 and his current whereabouts are unknown. Freedom House is concerned about his safety as well as that of Nabeel Rajab, who is at high risk of arrest after publishing photos of Ali Issa Saqr, who died in custody on April 9.

“Large scale lay-offs of citizens participating in demonstrations, arbitrary arrests, and now the suspicious deaths of four detainees show an outright disregard on the part of the Bahraini government to ensure the welfare of its citizens,” continued Schriefer.

Bahrain is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.

For more information on Bahrain, visit:

Freedom in the World 2011: Bahrain Freedom of the Press 2010: Bahrain Countries at the Crossroads 2010: Bahrain