By Andy Sambidge
Human Rights Watch says all proceedings against political defendants must be halted immediately
US-based Human Right Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday Bahraini authorities should immediately halt all proceedings before the special military court and free everyone held solely for exercising their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly.
Civilians charged with genuine criminal offenses should be tried in an independent civilian court that meets international fair trial standards, HRW said in a statement posted on its website.
"Most defendants hauled before Bahrain's special military court are facing blatantly political charges, and trials are unfair," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
"The Crown Prince may be sincere in his efforts to promote dialogue, but what good is that while back home the government is crushing peaceful dissent and locking up people who should be part of the dialogue."
HRW said the special military court began hearings on Monday against Matar Ibrahim Matar and Jawad Fairouz, former opposition members of parliament, without notifying their lawyers or families.
Human Rights Watch said it knows of 82 people for whom verdicts had been delivered in the special military court as of June 13, and of several dozen more whose cases are pending.
Of the 82, 77 were convicted on some charge; only five were fully acquitted.
Convictions for felony charges resulted in sentences ranging from five years to life, as well as two death sentences.
"Most convictions were for patently political charges such as participating in unauthorised demonstrations and 'incitement of hatred against the regime', and resulted in prison sentences ranging from one to five years," HRW added in its statement.
International human rights bodies have determined that trials of civilians before military tribunals violate the right to be tried by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal.
The Human Rights Committee, the international expert body authorised to monitor compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain ratified in 2006, has stated that civilians should be tried by military courts only under exceptional circumstances and only under conditions that genuinely afford full due process.
A Bahrain military court on Monday postponed the trial of 48 doctors arrested during a crackdown on anti-government protests, after their lawyers claimed they had been tortured in custody.
The doctors were among dozens of medical staff rounded up in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom, following protests that erupted in February, led mostly by the country's Shi'ite majority.
The doctors, most of them Shi'ite, face charges ranging from stealing medicine and stockpiling weapons to seizing control of the country's main public hospital.
They pleaded not guilty at their second court hearing on Monday.
So, this teeny organization sitting in US knows everything thats happening in Bahrain better than what Bahrain Govt knows.
It amuses to see these organizations has the nerve to say anything what it likes as if like they our country. You better shut up and Bahrain knows what to do.
Where were you when US has taken unilateral decisions invading Iraq. Not a single statement from your side and now when it comes to Middle East you utter any non-sense. I saw the movie FAIR GAME (Hollywood Movie) and was surprised to see the way US has deceived their people and the whole world destroying Iraq.
We don't trust you any more and neigther the so called Human Rights (HRW). You are all pawns in the hands of monsters sitting in US who were responsible destabilizing and butchering millions of people in Middle East.
You may find this an interesting reading:
Roth, Ken. "War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention" Human Rights Watch. January 2004
This is the oldest HRW report on Iraq I could find, plenty have followed. All of them critical.
You are welcome.