Amnesty International slams 'unfair' trial of Bahraini civilians at military courts

The file photo shows anti-government protesters kneel in the street and gesture toward riot police in Bahrain's capital, Manama.

Amnesty International has expressed concern over “unfair” trials for civilians at military courts in Bahrain and called on King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifah to order the retrial of four men who have recently been sentenced to life imprisonment.

In a report released on Wednesday, the UK-based rights group pointed to the death sentences issued against the four individuals, including three civilians, by the Military Court of Cassation on 25 April.

“Despite the King’s commutation of the sentences to life imprisonment the following day, Amnesty International remains concerned that these sentences were issued following unfair trials,” it said.

The report noted that the three convicted civilians, along with 14 others, are the first civilians to be tried by a military court in Bahrain since 2011.

“Amnesty International calls on King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifah to quash the conviction against the four men and for them to be retried before an independent and competent ordinary court,” the report said.

“Military trials of civilians are inherently unfair as all officials in military courts, including judges, are serving members of the military,” the report pointed out.

On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

The Bahraini monarch ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3 last year.

Amnesty International also slammed the Manama regime for revoking the citizenship of the Bahraini political opponents, adding, “Stripping citizens of their nationality on the basis of vague allegations without due process protections is arbitrary and in violation of Bahrain’s international human rights obligations.

The right to a nationality, which must not be deprived arbitrarily, is enshrined in Article15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Bahrain is a state party.”

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

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