UN rights watchdog calls on Bahrain to release two detained activists facing death sentences

The combo shows Bahraini nationals Mohamed Ramadhan (L) and Hussain Moosa, who have been sentenced to death.

A UN human rights monitoring group has urged the Bahraini regime to swiftly release and compensate two activists facing death sentences, saying the pair is being arbitrarily detained.

Bahraini security forces detained Hussain Moosa, 34, and Mohamed Ramadhan, 37, in February 2014, after accusing them of attacking police “with terrorist purpose,” and an alleged bombing that year in the village of al-Dair that led to the death of a policeman.

In December that year, Moosa, a hotel employee, and Ramadhan, a security guard at Bahrain International Airport, were initially handed down death sentences by a criminal court.

Both men appealed the sentences and the case was referred to the High Criminal Court of Appeal, which confirmed the verdicts in March 2015. Eight months later, the case reached the Court of Cassation that upheld the rulings.

The death sentences were later overturned after the emergence of a previously undisclosed medical report by the Bahraini Interior Ministry. The report, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), appeared to corroborate assertions that both men had been tortured to give false confessions.

Nevertheless, an appeals court finally reinstated the death penalties in January last year, and in July that year, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld the sentences against the two anti-regime activists. 

“Taking into account all the circumstances of the case, particularly the risk of harm to the physical and psychological well-being of Mr. Ramadhan and Mr. Moosa, the appropriate remedy would be to release both men immediately and accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law,” the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said in a report published Thursday and dated May 31.

In line with the HRW report, both Amnesty International and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), a UK-based human rights group, have also said that Moosa and Ramadhan were tortured to extract false confessions, subjected to sexual assault, beatings, sleep deprivation, and other abuses.

According to the UN panel of five experts, Ramadhan and Moosa have been detained on discriminatory grounds based on their political opinion, for having participated in pro-democracy protest rallies.

Back in July last year, 16 international and Bahraini human rights groups called on Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to commute the death sentences handed down against the two men, stressing that the pair who suffered alleged torture were not afforded a fair trial.

Demonstrations in Bahrain have been held on a regular basis ever since a popular uprising began in mid-February 2011.

The participants demand that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.
Manama, however, has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent.

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 the imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

King Hamad ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3, 2017.

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