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The use of the death penalty in Bahrain has dramatically escalated over the past decade, specifically since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, a new report has found.

Death sentences in the small Gulf archipelago have risen by more than 600 percent, with at least 51 people ordered executed since anti-government protests erupted in 2011, according to a joint report published on Tuesday by anti-death penalty and human rights group Reprieve and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD).

Seven people were sentenced to death in the previous decade, the report found.

The joint report noted the use of torture, especially in “terror” related death penalty cases, was particularly widespread, despite pledges for human rights reform by the government.

Some 88 percent of men executed in Bahrain since 2011 were convicted of “terror” charges, and 100 percent of these individuals alleged torture, the report found.

Today, some 26 men are facing imminent execution on death row, 11 of whom allege torture by Bahraini authorities. According to court documents, this includes individuals whose convictions were based on false torture “confessions”, the report said.

It noted the United Nations Committee Against Torture raised concerns about “the widespread acceptance by judges of forced confessions” in Bahrain, and recommended that judges “should review cases of convictions based solely on confessions, since many may have been based on evidence obtained through torture and ill-treatment”.

The death penalty has been imposed on a scale “never seen before”, especially targeting those connected to political opposition, it noted, as several had attended pro-democracy protests.

Commenting on the report, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of BIRD, said: “Sentencing torture survivors to death for their opposition to the government is a heinous act of revenge by Bahrain’s regime.

“For those facing imminent execution, the uncertainty of knowing they could be executed at any time is causing an unspeakable strain on their lives and those of their families.”

Claims of torture

Bahrain has been clamping down on dissent since 2011 when it quashed protests with help from Saudi Arabia.

Bahraini authorities have denied targeting the opposition and say they are protecting national security. The Gulf island kingdom has also claimed Iran trained and backed the demonstrators in order to topple the Manama government – an accusation Tehran denies.

Home to the Middle East headquarters of the US Navy, Bahrain has prosecuted and revoked the citizenship of hundreds of people in mass trials. Most opposition figures and human rights activists have been jailed or have fled.

But many have remained and are facing harsh sentences while their families await the news of their imminent deaths in anguish.

Tuesday marks one year since the Bahraini Court of Cassation decided to uphold Husain Moosa and Mohammed Ramadhan’s death sentences. The pair were tortured and convicted on the basis of a “confession” obtained through torture, according to human rights groups.

Security forces arrested Moosa, a hotel employee, and Ramadhan, a security guard in Bahrain’s international airport, in early 2014 after a policeman was killed in a bombing of a convoy in al-Deir, a village northeast of the capital, Manama.

At the time of their initial conviction, BIRD, as well as Amnesty International, said both men were tortured to extract false confessions, subjected to sexual assault, beatings, sleep deprivation and other abuses – accusations the Bahraini government denies.

According to the report, the men were pursued after attending “peaceful protests” in 2014.

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