BAHRAIN: Heavy sentences for human rights and dissenting activities

Press release
ar en

On June 22, 2011, the National Security Court of Bahrain has sentenced to life imprisonment 8 of the 21 human rights defenders and political activists whom have been brought to trial under charges linked to supposed "terrorist activities". The 13 others were sentenced to two to fifteen years’ imprisonment.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) express their utmost concern regarding this decision, as they consider that the charges are politically motivated and the right to a fair trial has been disregarded. Accordingly, FIDH and OMCT call for the immediate and unconditional release of those detained.

The 21 defendants have been brought to trial and charged with ”organising and managing a terrorist organisation”, “attempt to overthrow the government by force and in liaison with a terrorist organisation working for a foreign country,” and the “collection of money for a terrorist group”. FIDH and OMCT have considered since the beginning of the trial that the proceedings against them actually aim at sanctioning their involvement in the peaceful protests demanding democracy, the respect for human rights and/or political changes in the country(1).

Out of the 21 individuals sentenced, seven persons have been tried in absentia. Among the 14 who are under detention, several reported that they had been kept in solitary confinement and subject to continuous torture. Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former Director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)(3), who has been sentenced to life imprisonment, has regularly declared that he has been subjected to torture and other threats and bore at several occasion visible signs of torture. Moreover, the trial was not held in public. On May 12, 2011, at the second hearing, international observers were prevented to access the Court. Since then, international observers - even journalists covering the events - have been quasi systematically banned from entering the country.

“The judiciary in Bahrain has failed to guarantee the most basics of fair trial. We fear that the Special Appeal Court, if referred to, will not be able to restore the confidence of the Bahraini people through achieving an independent justice” said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.

“Torture and ill-treatment are prohibited, in all circumstances, under international law and we therefore call on the authorities of Bahrain to immediately put an end to such practices and to promptly and impartially investigate the aforementioned reports. Sentences based on statements made as a result of torture must be overturned as stipulated in Article 15 of the UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, to which Bahrain is a State Party” said Eric Sottas, Secretary General of OMCT.

Hundreds of civilians are being prosecuted before the Security Court following the protests in Bahrain, and most of them for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression without due process. Moreover, at least 1,700 people have been fired or suspended from their jobs due to their participation or for activities linked to the protest movement.

“While a large part of the population still faces repression for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, the silence at the regional and international levels is just deafening” FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen added. "We strongly call upon the States concerned and the relevant international and regional institutions to express strong concerns to the Bahraini authorities and to urge them to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and release those who are detained for exercising these fundamental rights".

Read more