• Amnesty International warns of continued human rights abuses in Bahrain
  • Small protests continue in Shia neighbourhoods
  • Government remains committed to public housing scheme

Human rights agency, Amnesty International, has released a report warning of human rights abuses in Bahrain as the country prepares to host the Formula 1 Grand Prix on 17-19 April.

The report says that the mistreatment of citizens remained ‘unabated’ as it outlined details of torture, arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force against peaceful activists and government critics.

Amnesty International has accused the Bahraini government of undermining provisions set out in a report produced by the UN-Backed Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011.

The reports says, “More than three years after Bahrain agreed at the highest level to accept and implement all the BICI recommendations, the steps introduced so far – while positive on a number of aspects – have been piecemeal and have had little impact in practice.”

Bahrain has stood by its decision to continue to host the event despite ongoing unrest and has claimed the racing event brings in almost $300m in revenues as well as providing 4,000 jobs during the three days.

A disenfranchised Shia majority has been calling for the authorities to do more with regards to social inclusion, employment opportunities and state support. Central to the discontent spreading across some of the country’s Shia communities has been the question of accommodation.

According to government statistics, there are currently 47,000 families on the waiting list to receive social housing.

Important precedent

In October 2013, Bahrain took an important step in addressing the shortage of low-cost homes, with the announcement that the first public-private partnership (PPP) housing project in the country had reached a financial close.

Although the scheme took three years to reach financial close and was trimmed in size due to concerns about its feasibility, it set an important precedent not just for Bahrain, but for the whole region. It was the first housing PPP negotiated in the Middle East, as well as the biggest single project ever awarded by Bahrain’s Housing Ministry. The legal adviser was the UK’s Trowers & Hamlins.

In the current low oil price environment, the PPP structure will protect the scheme from declining government revenues as a result of falling hydrocarbons earnings. Bahrain finds itself extremely vulnerable to the recent drop in oil prices as the longer-term sustainability of its economic position continues to face uncertainty. Read more.

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