Bahrain authorities must release activists convicted without a fair trial

by | Sep 7, 2012 | News

The ICJ calls upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release 13 human rights defenders and political activists convicted by the Criminal Court of Appeal in Bahrain.

On 4 September 2012, they were convicted on charges relating to “conspiracy to overthrow the government”, “espionage” and “violation of the Constitution”. The sentences against the defendants ranged from 5 years to life imprisonment.

The ruling of the Criminal Court of Appeal upheld the convictions and sentences of the detainees handed down last year by the National Safety Court and the National Safety Court of Appeal, two exceptional military courts established under the royal decree of 15 March 2011, which declared the “state of emergency”. On 30 April 2012, the Bahraini Cassation Court ordered their retrial before a civilian court.

“The retrial by the Criminal Court of Appeal failed to remedy the failures of the original trials and to meet international standards of fair trial, including the right to be presumed innocent and to equality of arms. The Prosecution failed to provide any credible evidence against these detainees and their right to defence has been severely undermined at all stages of the proceedings,” said Said Benarbia, Senior Legal Adviser of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme. “The retrial relied heavily on the findings of the first two trials, including “confessions” that the defendants claimed were obtained through torture and other ill-treatment.”

The Bahraini authorities should ensure that these allegations of torture and ill-treatment are promptly, independently and effectively investigated.

The Bahraini authorities should also ensure that the rights of human rights defenders and political activists to freedom of expression, association, and assembly are fully respected.

“Instead of subjecting these defenders and activists to various forms of harassment, intimidation and unfair trials, the Bahraini authorities should initiate comprehensive, meaningful and lasting constitutional and legal reforms that establish the rule of law and that fully protect the rights of Bahrainis to take part in the conduct of public affairs and to choose the form of their government,” Benarbia added.

For more information:

Saïd Benarbia, Middle East & North Africa Senior Legal Adviser, ICJ, t +41 22 979 3817; e-mail: said.benarbia(at)icj.org

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