Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Human rights experts condemn Bahraini death penalty cases

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday issued the following news release:
UN human rights experts* have called for the retrial of four men sentenced to death by a Bahraini military court in a collective trial that breached fair trial and due process guarantees and confessions obtained under torture.

They welcomed the news that the King of Bahrain commuted the death sentences to life in prison but deplored the imposition of the capital punishment in the first place. “The fact remains, that they should have never been convicted on the basis of flawed trials, let alone sentenced to death, and they still face life sentences,” they said.

The men, Mohamed AbdulHasan AlMutaghawi, Fadhel Sayed Radhi, Sayed Alawi Husain and Mubarak Adel Mubarak Mahanna, were sentenced to death by the Bahraini High Military Court on 25 December 2017 on charges of participating in a terrorist cell and attempting to assassinate Bahrain’s Defence Forces Commander-in-Chief. Two others facing the same charges were sentenced in absentia. All of them in addition had their citizenship revoked. They saw their appeals rejected by the Bahraini Military Court of Cassation on 25 April 2018.

Prior to their conviction, it is understood that the men were forcibly disappeared for several months, held in solitary confinement in small cells for a prolonged period and subjected to torture and ill-treatment to obtain confessions which were then used against them in court. They did not have access to legal representation until late in the trial proceedings and the court reportedly refused to investigate the defendants’ allegations of torture in custody.

“While welcoming the decision to annul the death sentences, we call on the authorities to ensure that the four men are retried in accordance with international law and standards“, the experts said. “The allegations of enforced disappearance and torture must be promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated with a view to holding those responsible to account and preventing future similar occurrences.”

They further urged the King of Bahrain to pardon all other death sentences and ensure that all these and other pending capital punishment cases are retried in full respect of fair trial and due process guarantees in compliance with the treaty obligations the country has undertaken under the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and CAT [Convention Against Torture].

“We also ask that the authorities reinstate the citizenship of all four men as well as that of all others that have been punished in the same manner in the same collective trial against established international human rights law and standards”, they added.

This was the first trial of civilians by a military court in Bahrain since 2011, after the King of Bahrain amended the constitution in 2017 to allow for the military trial of civilians. The UN experts called on the King of Bahrain to reverse the amendment.

The experts had previously sought clarifications from the Government on this case.
* The UN experts: Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Seong-Phil Hong, Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Bernard Duhaime, Chair of the Working Group on Enforced of Involuntary Disappearances

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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