The Gulf kingdom of Bahrain resumed torturing detainees in 2007 after about a decade of not engaging in the "scourge,” US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released Monday.
As of late 2007, "torture is back in the repertoire of Bahrain's security services,” the international watchdog said in the report.
"The return of torture is especially distressing since Bahrain showed the political will a decade ago to end this scourge," said the report by Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East director.
The Sunni-ruled state ended torture of detainees in the late 1990s, but resumed the practice in December 2007 amid street demonstrations by majority Shiites, the report said.
The report was based on interviews with 20 former detainees, as well as court and medical records, Stork said in the report.
He said there was "credible evidence" that security forces had subjected detainees to electric shocks and beatings, had suspended them in painful positions, forced them to stand for long periods of time, and threatened their family members with death and rape.
Many detainees were subjected to more than one of those practices, the report said.
Bahrain was hit in the 1990s by a wave of Shiite led unrest, which abated after the Sunni King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa launched steps to convert the Gulf country into a constitutional monarchy in 2002.
Shiites complain they are discriminated at every level, from getting jobs to citizenship, accusing the government of granting nationality to large numbers of Sunni Muslims in order to skew the kingdom's demography.
The government has maintained that it implements a 1963 law granting citizenship to long-time permanent residents without prejudice.
Torture is against Bahraini law and violates three international treaties that Bahrain has signed, HRW said.
It called on the kingdom to end torture and prosecute officials who have violated anti-torture laws.
"The government should promptly investigate all torture allegations and prosecute offenders according to international fair trial standards," the report said.
Bahrain is a small Gulf island kingdom with modest oil production. It is connected to powerful, Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia by a causeway, and is home to the US navy's Fifth Fleet.