State media for Bahrain announced on Sunday that new measures will be taken against protesters [BNA report] in light of recent violence against police officers. Acting under the orders of Prime Minister and Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa [official profile], the Cabinet of Bahrain [official website, in Arabic] will soon amend the penal code to include a 15-year prison sentence for "instigators and implementers" of physical assault against police officers. The BNA report denied that recent protests have been meritorious:
The cabinet expressed sorrow in view of the increasingly growing provocative calls which instigate the targeting of security personnel—these provocative calls come from forums, website, social networks or practically during unlicensed demonstrations and gatherings which have nothing to do with peacefulness, calls for reformation, freedom of expression nor democracy.Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [HRW report] that the Bahraini government is engaging in a "widespread crackdown on anti-government protests," and that since the declaration of a state-of-emergency in March [JURIST report], hundreds of protesters have been arrested and sentenced to hard labor penalties or death sentences. Although the state-of-emergency and laws related to it were lifted in May [JURIST reports], protests and violence against protesters continue. A report in November [JURIST report] by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) [official website] stated that 48 police officers were being investigated for allegations of extra-judicial torture and executions.
Protests and demonstrations in Bahrain [BBC backgrounder] have been ongoing since February 2011 [JURIST report]. In response to the BICI report, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official profile] swore that reforms would be made. Al Khalifa promised to amend the nation's constitution [text] earlier this month, to allow the National Assembly [official profile] more oversight of ministers and cabinet members [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, a Bahraini court on overturned the death sentences for two protesters convicted of killing two police officers during the demonstrations that took place in the country last year. The original conviction [JURIST report] was rendered by a special security court set up as part of the emergency law in place while the country's Sunni rulers attempted to silence a Shiite-led to effort bolster civil and political rights in the country. In December, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that the Bahrain government should release prisoners detained during peaceful protests [JURIST report] and focus on rebuilding national trust in the government. Pillay's statement followed a visit by a team of human rights officials to Bahrain at the invitation of the Bahrain government.