Following the eruption of protests in February 2011 against government corruption and discrimination of the Shi'a majority population, the situation for human rights defenders in Bahrain became even more dangerous and difficult. Faced with widespread protests and unrest, the authorities responded with harsh measures and a crackdown on protesters, civil society leaders, human rights defenders and pro democracy activists. Human rights defenders were tried in military courts, often charged with fabricated crimes, and given hugely disproportionate sentences. Furthermore many have been ill-treated and tortured in detention, have been held incommunicado and denied access to family and lawyers, while confessions made under duress have been admitted as evidence in court in contravention of international law.
Anti-terrorism legislation has been used by the regime to vilify and persecute activists and human rights defenders. Also before the 2011 protests, a number of prominent human rights defenders were accused of belonging to terrorist networks and plotting to overthrow the government because of the peaceful human rights work.