Bahrain is a monarchy with a population of approximately 1,235,000, including approximately 569,000 who are citizens. King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa is the head of state and all branches of government. The king appoints a cabinet of ministers; approximately half are members of the minority Sunni Al-Khalifa ruling family. The 2002 constitution reinstated a bicameral, legislative body consisting of an upper house, the Shura Council, whose members are appointed by the king, and a lower house, the elected Council of Representatives. Approximately 67 percent of eligible voters participated in the October parliamentary and municipal council elections, the outcome of which was affected by extensive gerrymandering of districts. The opposition, Shia Islamist Al-Wifaq political society won all contested 18 seats in the 40-member Council of Representatives. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.
Citizens did not have the right to change their government. Trafficking in persons and restrictions on the rights of foreign resident workers continued to be significant problems. There were numerous reports of abuse against foreign workers, particularly female domestic workers. There were many reports of domestic violence against women and children. Discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, nationality, and sect, especially against the Shia majority population, persisted. There were multiple allegations of mistreatment and torture, especially of Shia activists associated with rejectionist and opposition groups. Authorities arbitrarily arrested activists, journalists, and other citizens and detained some individuals incommunicado. Some detainees did not always have adequate access to their attorneys. At least two of the detainees were dismissed from their public-sector jobs prior to the commencement of judicial proceedings. The government restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and some religious practices. There were instances of the government imposing and enforcing official and unofficial travel bans on political activists. The Shia are underrepresented in positions of leadership in the civil service, police, and security forces.