- Category: Press Releases
- Published on Thursday, 01 September 2011 22:14
Johannesburg. 1 September 2011. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation in solidarity with regional civil society groups urges the Government of Bahrain to stop the ongoing sham trials of pro-democracy activists and provide them the right to appeal lengthy and unjust sentences in regular civilian courts.
On 11 September 2011, 21 civil society members and concerned citizens will be forced to appeal sentences handed out to them in June 2011 by Bahrain's military National Safety Court. The activists have been handed severe punishments ranging from two years to life in prison for speaking out against the nation's repressive monarchy during protests that stretched from February to March this year."The politically motivated charges, unfair nature of the trials and severity of the sentences for the mere exercise of the right to democratic dissent, make a mockery of judicial processes," said Mandeep Tiwana, Policy Manager at CIVICUS. "The trial of civilian protestors in military courts breaches their right to be tried by competent and independent judges."
The charges against the activists include incitement of hatred, contempt of the regime, taking part in rallies without notifying competent authorities and spreading malicious propaganda with the aim of disrupting public order. CIVICUS has also received reports that some of the detainees have been physically tortured and their family members intimidated.
The sentencing of the 21 activists follows on-going harassment and prosecution of other activists and concerned citizens across Bahrain for speaking out against the governing Monarchy. This violent crackdown by the Bahraini authorities has caused the deaths of more than 24 protesters and the detention of more than 500 people. Scores of human rights and political activists, protesting lawyers, teachers, nurses, doctors and paramedics continue to languish in Bahrain's jails.
Ziad Abdeltawab, Assistant Director at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, laments that: "Bahrain has placed itself among the worst human rights oppressors in the world. The punitive campaign led by the authorities in Bahrain against those who peacefully choose to exercise their right to protest and those who support them is unprecedented. The unconditional release of these activists is an obligation incumbent on the Government of Bahrain."
On 29 June 2011, a royal decree by King Hamad bin 'Issa Al Khalifa ordered all military court cases to be transferred to civilian courts. However on 18 August, another decree ordered that the National Safety Court would continue to handle cases classified as 'felonies' (crimes classified as serious) requiring the appeals for the 21 activists to be heard in a military court.
"The treatment of these activists is a source of grave concern to the international community. It represents a serious infringement of international law, amounting to an abdication of responsibility by a state to uphold its human rights obligations," said CIVICUS. The international community has been shamefully silent on these abuses in stark contrast to their positions on Libya, Syria, Iran and other countries.
CIVICUS urges the Bahraini authorities to stop the sham trials and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience.