Death penalties in Bahrain rose by 600% since 2001 anti-regime uprising: Report

Anti-regime protests in Bahrain in 2014 calling for the release of jailed activists.

The use of capital punishment in Bahrain has considerably increased over the past decade, particularly since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, according to a new report.

A joint report released on Tuesday by anti-death penalty and human rights group Reprieve and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said that death penalties in the Persian Gulf country had shot up by more than 600 percent.

At least 51 people were sent to gallows since anti-regime protests erupted in the country in 2011, while seven people had been sentenced to death in the previous decade, the report notes.

It said that the use of torture, especially in “terror”-related death sentence cases, is widely prevalent in the country, despite assurances of human rights reforms by the Manama regime.

Pertinently, Bahrain broke a seven-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty in January 2017 when it executed three torture victims.

The UN Special Rapporteur declared the executions to be extrajudicial in nature, highlighting the government’s use of “torture, unfair trial and flimsy evidence” in securing their convictions.

According to the new report, some 88 percent of men executed in Bahrain since 2011 were convicted of “terror” charges, and 100 percent of them alleged custodial torture.

Today, around 26 men are sitting on death row in the island nation, 11 of whom allege torture by Bahraini authorities. According to court documents, the list includes individuals whose convictions were based on false torture “confessions,” the report states.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture, the report further said, raised concerns about “the widespread acceptance by judges of forced confessions” in Bahrain, and recommended that judges “should review cases of convictions based solely on confessions, since many may have been based on evidence obtained through torture and ill-treatment”.

The death penalty has been imposed on a scale “never seen before,” especially targeting those connected to political opposition, it notes, as many had attended pro-democracy protests.

Commenting on the report, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of BIRD, said sentencing torture survivors to death for their opposition to the government is a “heinous act of revenge” by the Bahraini regime.

“For those facing imminent execution, the uncertainty of knowing they could be executed at any time is causing an unspeakable strain on their lives and those of their families,” he said.

Criminalizing dissent

Bahrain, with the help of its key Arab ally Saudi Arabia, has been ruthlessly clamping down on dissent since 2011, arresting, torturing and executing people on the flimsy charges of anti-national activities.

Hosting the headquarters of the US Naval Forces Central Command, Bahrain has prosecuted and revoked the citizenship of hundreds of people, including opposition figures and human rights activists.

This week marked one year since the Bahraini Court of Cassation decided to uphold Husain Moosa and Mohammed Ramadhan’s death sentences. The pair were tortured and convicted on the basis of a “confession” obtained through torture, according to human rights groups.

The duo, according to activists, was hunted down after participating in peaceful protests in 2014. They were later tortured to extract false confessions, subjected to sexual assault, beatings, and other abuse.

Zuhair Abdullah, who was sentenced to death in 2018, suffered a wide range of torture techniques following his arrest in November 2018, including the use of “electric shocks to the chest and genitals, beatings and attempted rape,” according to information gathered from interviews with his family.

In its recommendations, Reprieve and BIRD have urged the Bahraini regime to implement an “immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty, pending a full review of all capital cases to identify allegations of torture.”

They have also called on the courts in Bahrain to “quash all death sentences and overturn any convictions that rely on torture evidence.”

The groups also called on the government of the United Kingdom to halt all assistance to “Bahraini security and justice bodies” that are responsible for carrying out rampant abuses.

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