MANAMA, Bahrain, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch said Thursday that Bahrain's promises of political reform are for naught if opposition leaders remain jailed.
Human Rights Watch staff members visited Bahrain recently and met with Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa and other officials.
Bahrain's Sunni-led monarchy has pledged to honor proposals spelled out by an independent commission of inquiry probing a deadly uprising against the government in 2011.
Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Middle East programs at Human Rights Watch, said many of those pledges are empty.
"All the talk of national dialogue and reform mean nothing so long as the country's most prominent human rights and political activists remain unjustly imprisoned while officials responsible for torture and murder remain in their positions," she said in a statement.
Protests have continued since the 2011 uprising. One protester and a policeman were killed during mid-February demonstrations.
The government of Bahrain said any party or group with real political demands should avoid using violence to pursue their objectives. Bahrain's Justice Minister Khalid bin Ali al-Khalifa has stressed "the government's resolve to prevent using violence as a tool to pressurize decisions."
Whitson said that at the bare minimum, the rights community should expect the government to examine "the gross abuses by security forces during the 2011 uprising."