Human Rights Watch criticised "failures" in Bahrain's justice system Thursday, saying it severely punishes pro-reform protesters while offering impunity to abusive security personnel.
"A police officer in Bahrain who kills a protester in cold blood or beats a detainee to death might face a sentence of six months or maybe two years," said HRW deputy Middle East director Joe Stork in a 64-page report.
Meanwhile, "peacefully calling for the country to become a republic will get you life in prison."
Scores of Shiites were rounded up following a crackdown on protesters against the ruling Sunni dynasty in March 2011, and many have been tried and jailed.
The kingdom has been widely criticised over the and for the alleged mistreatment of detainees.
The report alleges that the kingdom's courts maintain a "highly repressive political order."
In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry found that security forces had used "excessive force" and tortured detainees in its month-long crackdown on dissent.
Among other recommendations, it called for reforms in the police and justice systems.