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Amnesty: 'rights crisis' in Bahrain despite reform pledge

Amnesty International releases scathing rights report ahead of Bahrain's Grand Prix.

Formula one bahrain 2012 4 11Enlarge
A man in Bahrain walks past graffiti calling for the cancellation of the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain later this month. The sign reads, "Are you racing on the blood of martyrs?" (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Amnesty International today released a stinging report on continued rights abuses in Bahrain ahead of this weekend's Grand Prix race, an event decried by the opposition as legitimizing the regime. 

"The authorities are trying to portray the country as being on the road to reform, but we continue to receive reports of torture and use of unnecessary and excessive force against protests," Middle East and North Africa deputy director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said, according to the BBC.

More from GlobalPost: Why the protest movement in Bahrain failed

Government spokesman Abdulaziz bin Mubarak al Khalifa responded by accusing the rights group of seeing the "glass half empty and not half full" when it comes to rights, according to CNN

Entitled "Bahrain: Reforms risk appearing hollow as violations continue," the report accuses authorities of continuing violence despite promises to end its harsh crackdown on a year-long anti-government uprising. 

The report comes days before this weekend's highly-anticipated Grand Prix in Bahrain. The island nation was barred from holding the race last year due to authorities' violent response to a pro-democracy protest, and activists had hoped for a similar cancelation this year.

Bahrain has been in political turmoil for much of the past year, and continues to see frequent protests -- recent weeks have seen demonstrations meant to pressure Formula One over the race.

More than 40 people are believed to have been killed 1,600 arrested as authorities moved to quell the mainly Shiite-led uprising against the ruling Sunni monarchy, said BBC, a crisis that saw growing international attention until the government pledged key reforms.

Those reforms, Amnesty International said, have "only scratched the surface."

The group urged authorities to better respond to rights violations earlier revealed by its own government-led commission, with Sahraoui saying they must begin "holding to account senior members of the security forces accused of violations, releasing prisoners of conscience and addressing the underlying discrimination against the Shia majority population," according to Al Jazeera

For its part, Bahrain says it is "very much committed to implementing" the government's recommendations, reported BBC

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120417/amnesty-rights-crisis-bahrain-despite-reform-pledge