Security forces in Bahrain have been raiding dozens of homes each day since April, arbitrarily arresting young men, and torturing them to force confessions to some crime, a local rights group said on Tuesday.
Plainclothes police, some of them dressed in neon-colored vests and black ski masks, knocked down doors of houses in at least 10 villages across the tiny Gulf monarchy on Monday and arrested several people, Yousif al-Muhafda, deputy-head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), said.
In the latest home invasions on Tuesday, Muhafda documented raids in at least four villages including al-Shakhtoura, Sehla, Nabi Saleh and Ma’ameer with a number of arrests.
“In one day, there are at least 30-35 house raids,” the rights activist told Al-Akhbar.
“Many times they aren’t looking for specific people. They just storm a house and ask the family if they have any young men,” Muhafda added.
In a period of five days from July 17 – 21, the BCHR documented over 60 arrests, 140 injuries from birdshot, and 150 house raids.
Hundreds of others have been arrested in a recent escalation of house raids, which began during a massive crackdown on activists ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix in the capital Manama in April.
Some of those taken into custody included persons with physical and mental disabilities. For example, Qassem Ghaloum Ahmad, who suffers from a mental disability, was detained last week in arbitrary arrests. Before him, security forces had arrested blind and deaf youths.
“Bahrain is now living under martial law,” Muhafda said. “The house raids never stop. For 24 hours yesterday (Monday), they went from one village to to the next.”
Once arrested, the mostly-young Bahrainis are held in Dry Dock Prison where they are routinely beaten and tortured with no access to family or a lawyer.
Afterwards they are sent to the criminal investigation office where they are blindfolded and asked to sign a document confessing to a crime. If they refuse, or ask to see a lawyer, they are sent back to Dry Dock for more beatings.
Such was the case with prominent activist Naji Fateel who has been imprisoned since May on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization and attending an illegal gathering, Muhafda, who is familiar with the incident, said.
Authorities in western-backed Bahrain have been attempting to crush a popular pro-democracy uprising that erupted in February 2011.
Dozens of protesters have been killed in the crackdown, which saw a Saudi-led Gulf force enter the kingdom in March 2011 to violently suppress protests.
Activists are now calling for a massive demonstration on August 14 inspired by the Egyptian “Tamarod” movement that brought down President Mohammed Mursi earlier this month. The date coincides with Bahrain’s independence day.