An Amnesty report assessing the work of oversight bodies set up to deal with grievances or guard against further abuses said it had found "serious shortcomings" in the work of two British-supported institutions whose work is cited by Bahraini and UK authorities as evidence of progress in upholding human rights.
The Bahraini oversight agencies are the Ombudsman of the Ministry of Interior and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) within the Public Prosecution Office, which were established in 2012. Both receive training and capacity building from Britain, a staunch ally of Bahrain.
"There is no denying that the Bahraini government has taken a step in the right direction by setting up institutions to investigate human rights violations and hold those suspected to be responsible accountable," Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International’s Beirut Regional Office, said in a statement reported by Reuters.
"Sadly these reforms remain woefully inadequate. Torture and other ill-treatment by security forces persist within a system of entrenched impunity marked by the lack of an independent judiciary,” she added.
Officials from the Western-allied Persian Gulf Arab state did not respond to a request by Reuters for a comment on the report.
The report said that while at least 93 members of the security forces had been charged with involvement in unlawful killings, injuries, torture and other ill-treatment since November 2011, only a small number had been convicted and most sentences failed to reflect the gravity of the crime.
"No senior officers or officials have faced prosecution for the serious human rights violations committed during the suppression of the 2011 uprising, despite the BICI’s call for further investigations and criminal prosecution of those suspected of being responsible," the report said, referring to an international inquiry that investigated how authorities dealt with the protests led by Bahrain's pro-democracy protestors.
Bahrain has repeatedly pointed to the existence of the Ombudsman and the SIU to deflect international criticism of alleged continued human rights violations and assert its commitment to human rights and accountability, Amnesty said.
"In reality, the creation of the Ombudsman and the SIU does not appear to date to have significantly deterred human rights violations," the report said.