A new Human Rights Watch
(HRW) report discussed sham show trials in Bahrain titled, "No Justice
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights said hundreds of unfair, politically
motivated trials were conducted for months. Innocent victims were convicted.
Before trial, they were arrested, imprisoned and brutally tortured.
They'll endure years more brutality. It's largely unreported by Western
media scoundrels, especially American ones suppressing unpleasant truths.
Last March, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa assumed emergency powers.
Field Marshall Khalifa bin Ahmad Al Khalifs, Bahrain Defense Force commander,
issued sweeping regulations governing public order.
Military courts were also decreed, called National Safety Courts, to
prosecute alleged crimes "brought about (by) the State of National Safety
(and) def(ied decree) procedures."
As a result, from April 4 through early October, hundreds were lawlessly
tried. Military judges convicted defendants by accusation. Justice was
"Based on scores of interviews with defendants, former detainees, defense
lawyers, and observers of the trials, as well as a comprehensive review
of available court records, medical documents, and other relevant material,
this report finds that the National Safety Courts repeatedly failed
to respect and protect basic due process rights."
"These findings are similar to those in the November 2011 report of
the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which comprised
five international jurists and human rights experts, and was created
by royal order in June 2011."
On June 1, King Hamad lifted the State of National Safety, but continued
military tribunal alleged felony cases through October 7. Thereafter,
politically connected prosecutions and appeals were held in civilian
criminal courts. Defendants were treated just as harshly. Justice continues
Prior to February 2011, civil courts disregarded fair trial protections.
They replicated military court injustice, violated free expression and
association, denied the right to counsel and proper defense, and ignored
systematic torture and ill-treatment in detention.
Special Military Courts
Only armed forces members and combatants should get military court trials.
Civilians deserve civil ones. Bahrain's National Safety Courts flout
international law, as well as Bahraini criminal law provisions.
The monarchy's choice lack competence, impartiality and independence.
Defendants can't communicate properly with counsel. Nor can prosecution
witnesses be cross-examined. As a result, they're convicted by torture
extracted confessions. They have no validity in judicial proceedings.
In one case, the tribunal convicted and sentenced a defendant, despite
no incriminating evidence against him. Moreover, trials were mostly
closed to the public.
Overall, National Safety Courts "served primarily as a vehicle to convict
defendants of alleged crimes stemming from the exercise of fundamental
rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly, in violation
of international and Bahraini law."
In fact, hundreds were convicted of "political crimes" related to exercising
their free expression rights.
HRW examined two high-profile collective cases, involving 21 activists
and 20 medical personnel. National Democratic Action Society leader
Ibrahim Sharif was involved.
He was sentenced to five years for encouraging assemblies, demonstrations,
and sit-ins, "discuss(ing) the demand for a republic," asserting the
existence of "sectarian and tribal discrimination in the country," and
claiming Bahrain's government "lost its legitimacy."
Al Haq leader Hassan Mushaima was also tried. He was accused of advocating
“marches, demonstrations and civil disobedience” supporting the “establishment
of a democratic republic.” He got a life sentence.
Human rights advocate/political opposition leader Abdulhadi al-Khawaja
was also convicted. He also received a life sentence for “advocat[ing]
the overthrow of the regime, a willingness to sacrifice, disobedience,
a general strike, and marches.” Prosecutors also charged him with
“insult(ing) the army” and “impugn(ing) the integrity of the judiciary.”
In fact, all activists lawfully exercised their speech, assembly, and
association rights nonviolently. International and Bahraini law protects
them. However, hanging judges ruled emergency decree provisions took
Yet the nation's constitution only permits suspending citizen rights
under martial law. King Hamad's decree establishing the State of National
Safety excluded doing so. Judges also ignored Crown Prince Salman bin
Hamad Al Khalifa statements pertaining to lawfully permitted and protected
peaceful street demonstrations.
Nonetheless, law abiding Bahrainis were extrajudiciously convicted based
on torture extracted confessions.
Of the 21 activists, two got 15-year sentences, despite no evidence
whatever against them. Blogger Ali Abdulemam and human rights activist
Abdul Ghani al-Kanjar were tried in absentia. No incriminating evidence
was presented. Yet they were convicted of joining an illegal group and
attempting to overthrow the government.
Overall, all 21 activists were convicted. Eight got life sentences.
Others got from two to 15 years, despite violating no laws.
All 20 medical personnel were also convicted for doing their jobs responsibly.
Baseless charges included joining in "slogans and chants," expressing
"hatred and contempt for the governing regime," and "broadcast(ing)
false and tendentious news" in interviews.
In fact, one defendant was convicted for having accidently stepped on
the prime minister's photo. Charges against another involved asking
Manchester United football club manager Alex Ferguson to observe a moment
of silence before a match.
Judicial proceedings were rigged to convict. Military judges prohibited
defense lawyers from cross-examining prosecution witnesses. In some
cases, defendants got no right to testify in self-defense.
HRW also examined numerous other cases. They included a prominent defense
attorney and former parliamentarian. In all trials, defendants were
guilty by accusation.
Bahrain's civil courts function like military ones in highly politicized
cases. Eleven of the charged 21 activists were earlier accused of being
part of a "terrorist network" in civil proceedings. They involved 25
The case was ongoing when unrest began last year. As an early concession
to protesters, King Hamad freed 23 of the 25. However, 11 were re-arrested,
tried and convicted.
In the "terrorist network" case, defendants were denied the right to
counsel and access to trial materials. In addition, inappropriate prejudicial
public statements were made against them. Moreover, allegations of torture
in detention were whitewashed. According to court minutes, all but one
defendant claimed security forces abused them physically and psychologically.
Charges against all were spurious. No evidence whatever proved crimes.
An accused cleric was asked about his sermons and "what rights people
Last year, HRW interviewed eight defendants after their release. All
said they were tortured and ill-treated. They explained beatings, sleep
deprivation, forced prolonged standing, extended isolation in solitary
confinement, and other forms of abuse.
Torture extracted confessions used in two civil trials unraveled during
proceedings. One case involved two defendants accused of assaulting
a pro-government newspaper editor. In fact, the victim said they weren't
his assailants. After release, the two men said they were slapped, punched
and threatened with electric shocks until confessed to stop pain.
The other case also involved a torture extracted confession. An innocent
young man got a year in prison, despite his passport showing he was
in Britain at the time of the alleged incident. According to HRW:
"The egregious violations of fair trial rights in the cases presented
in this report do not reflect simply poor practices by individual judicial
officers, but also serious, systemic problems with Bahrain’s criminal
justice system as a whole and the role of the military and intelligence
services in state oppression."
"For this reason, the government should conduct thorough and impartial
investigations into the broad range of human rights violations detailed
in this report by implicated ministries and agencies, including the
Ministry of Interior, the National Security Agency, the Bahrain Defense
Force, the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, and the Public Prosecution
"The government should fully prosecute those responsible for serious
abuses, regardless of position or rank, and adopt measures to deter
A Final Comment
Despots spurn rule of law principles with impunity. They also ignore
calls for judicial fairness and redress for victims. Instead, their
crimes against humanity continue daily.
Since nonviolent protests began in February 2011, dozens of people were
killed. Over 90 journalists were threatened and abused. So were many
others. Hundreds of arrests were made. Virtually everyone was brutally
Defendants tried were guilty by accusation. Rigged proceedings railroaded
them. On March 4, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said unfair, politically
motivated civil trials continue. They operate like military ones.
Virtually everyone convicted, sentenced and imprisoned is innocent.
No matter. Some got life sentences for supporting right over wrong.
King Hamad calls them terrorists. Like other regional despots, he's
a valued US ally.
A year after nonviolent protests began, democratic change remains elusive.
Yet courageous Bahrainis keep resisting. Their liberating struggle continues.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
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