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UN HR Commissioner Deeply Concerned by Mass Terrorism Convictions in Bahrain

Human Rights Council in Geneva
Human Rights Council in Geneva

2019-04-19 - 12:06 am

Bahrain Mirror: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed on Thursday (April 18, 2019) alarm at a court decision in Bahrain that revoked the nationalities of 138 people after a mass trial.

In a statement, the Commissioner stressed that there are serious concerns that the court proceedings failed to comply with international fair trial standards, with a large number of the accused reportedly tried in absentia.

She noted that on 16 April, the High Criminal Court in Bahrain sentenced the 139 men to between three years and life in prison in addition to hefty fines up to 100,000 BHD (265,000 USD). The nationalities of all but one of those convicted were also revoked, bringing to about 980 the number of Bahrainis who have now reportedly had their nationality stripped since 2012. According to information received, 17 of those convicted are believed to be minors between the ages of 15 and 17. The vast majority of the minors who were convicted are currently imprisoned.

"The UN Human Rights Office has long urged Bahrain to bring its overly broad counter-terrorism and counter-extremism legislation in line with its international human rights obligations. Tuesday's convictions give rise to serious concerns about the application of the law, particularly through a mass trial that reportedly lacked the procedural safeguards necessary to ensure a fair trial," High Commissioner Bachelet further stated.

She added that deprivation of nationality must not be arbitrary, especially on discriminatory grounds such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality or social origins, property, birth or other status. Arbitrary deprivation of nationality places the individuals concerned and their family members in a situation of increased vulnerability to human rights violations.

Various UN human rights mechanisms have repeatedly called on Bahrain to take specific steps to amend its counter-terrorism legislation, and to ensure that citizenship is not revoked except in accordance with international standards and under independent judicial review.

The High Commissioner also expressed concerns at reports of torture or other ill-treatment against some of those convicted. She urged the authorities to take immediate steps to prevent such violations, and to ensure that allegations of torture are fully investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.

A court in Bahrain had sentenced 139 people to jail on terrorism charges on Tuesday and revoked the citizenship of all but one of them, the public prosecutor said, in the latest mass trial in the Gulf Arab state. Of those sentenced, 60 were in absentia, a defence lawyer said.

The High Criminal Court handed out life jail terms to 69 of the defendants, the prosecutor said, adding they were sentenced for crimes including joining a "terrorist" group, bombings, attempted murder and receiving arms and explosives training.

Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has prosecuted hundreds of protesters in mass trials and banned main opposition groups. Most of the leading opposition figures and rights activists are imprisoned or have fled abroad.

Since the uprising eight years ago, the Gulf island nation has seen periodic clashes between protesters and security forces, who have been targeted by several bomb attacks.

The government denies deliberately targeting the Shi'ite political opposition, saying it is only acting to preserve Bahrain's national security.


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