Bahraini Court Upholds Military Tribunal Death Sentences
April 25, 2018
Bahrain’s highest court has upheld the death sentences handed down by a military tribunal to four men accused of plotting to kill the head of the country’s armed forces, concluding a secretive and unfair trial that has fallen far short of international standards of due process. They face imminent execution, along with four other men previously convicted and sentenced to death based on false confessions extracted through torture.
Telecoms engineer Sayed Alawi Sayed Hussain was abducted by Bahrain’s security forces on 24 October, 2016. Another of the defendants, Fadel Radhi, was taken from his home on September 29, 2016. Both men were ‘disappeared’ for months: their families were not told where they were being held or what they were accused of.
In April 2017, Bahrain amended its constitution to enable military tribunals to try civilians accused of threatening the security of the state. Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, supposedly the intended target of the plot, appointed the judges that convicted the accused plotters and sentenced them to death. Lawyers for the men have not been allowed to see the evidence against them, and a gag order prevents them from disclosing anything heard in court to the press. Requests from the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain to monitor the trial were refused.
The upheld death sentences are the latest sign that Bahrain is prepared to ignore human rights in efforts to deter dissent. In January 2017, three men arrested following demonstrations against the regime and tortured into ‘confessions’ were executed – the first Bahraini nationals to be executed since 1996. Since these executions, Bahrain’s death row has increased dramatically from 7 to 25, amid ongoing concerns over the unfair trials and the use of torture to obtain false confessions.
Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of international human rights organisation Reprieve, said:
“These verdicts, delivered in secret by an illegitimate military tribunal, are an egregious violation of human rights. The U.K. Foreign Office has spent millions of pounds training Bahraini police and prison guards, ostensibly with the aim of reforming the Kingdom’s justice system. Torture and executions are not justice. If Prime Minister Theresa May’s vow that Britain will take a ‘moral lead in the world’ is to be more than cheap talk, she must demand that these men receive a fair trial.”
Commenting, Sayed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy of London-based NGO BIRD, said:
“Today’s death sentences are patently illegal under international law – the men were subjected to prolonged enforced disappearances, sham military trials, without any respect for due process. The Court of Cassation has sanctioned Bahrain’s human rights abuses by allowing these civilians to be sentenced to death in military tribunals. The UK has a responsibility to call on Bahrain to immediately review its use of the death penalty.”