Bahrain needs an impartial and fair judiciary

justiceOn Sunday 29th September Bahraini courts handed out sentences between 3 and 15 years to 95 Bahrainis, including a woman and two children. The sentences add up to 808 years in total with 6 different cases of political background.

Al-Wefaq said that sentence based on coerced confessions under torture are void and reflect the regime’s political crisis with the Bahraini people, who demand a state of justice and democracy, where the people are the source of all powers. Adding, Bahrain needs an “independent and fair judiciary”.

The vindictive sentences are issued just two days after the people of Bahrain flooded the streets in a gigantic rally demanding democratic transition and an end to the current state of dictatorship in Bahrain.

The sentences were issued across a number of cases, including the “14 February plot” in which 50 defendants were given 430 years in total. While 13 other defendants were given 39 years in total in what is known as the Manama case. In the Daih case, 10 defendants were handed sentences that totalled up to 100 years, and 6 defendants were given sentences that summed up to 75 years in the Bilad al Qadeem case. A total of 100 years were given to 9 defendants in the Buri case while Sitra’s case got a sum of 64 years.

The harsh sentences also come days after the international community had condemned the human rights situation in Bahrain, with 47 states at the UN Human Rights Council condemning Bahrain’s violation of human rights. While the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed “serious concern” over the dangerous rights situation in Bahrain. The European Union Parliament had also issued a resolution condemning the human rights situation in Bahrain and called for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience.

Al-Wefaq said the sentences are political and cannot be considered to express any state of justice. The defendants constantly complain of being subjected to torture, mistreatment and coerced confession. Al-Wefaq added, this makes the peoples demand for an independent, impartial and fair judiciary an urgent necessity.

Al-Wefaq pointed out, in its remarks on the harsh sentences, that the President of the Court that issued the sentences was a judge in the military courts during the state of emergency (National Safety Law).

These military courts were criticized directly by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry BICI report, chaired by international law expert, Mr Cherif Bassiouni. However, the Authority has not taken any measures against the judges of the military courts, including the mentioned President of Court, despite their apparent failure to provide requirements of a fair trial.

The BICI report also clearly mentioned that the courts and judges are involved in the prevalence and coverage of torture and impunity.

One defendant took his shirt off in court to show the judges the marks of torture on his body, while another mentioned that the Chief Prosecutor had threatened him with a gun during interrogation. However, and regrettably, the court was held to convict the defendants, in the first place.

“The Bassiouni report had talked about the courts’ need to prove wrong a defendant’s allegation of torture and mistreatment during interrogation and detention. If the court fails to do so, the defendant’s confessions must be dropped in this case. Thus, today’s verdicts prove that the Bassiouni recommendations are left in drawers”, Al-Wefaq said.

The defense panel had required the replacement of the court’s president and one of its members, but the bench ignored the requirement and failed to transmit it to the Supreme Judicial Court and therefore the trial is considered to be political.

Al-Wefaq noted that cases of a certain type were all transmitted to the new unit that has issued the sentences in response to public statements made by an official to shorten procedures and tighten penalties. This makes the unit a “special court” and explains why the defense panel was ignored and shows a lack of guarantees on the proper distributing of court cases, Al-Wefaq added.

Al-Wefaq also outlined that the charges are based on confessions obtained under torture, according to serious allegations by the defendants. The trials also depend on the security apparatus’s investigations records. The courts have gone as far as accepting supposed witnesses who were neither known nor present.


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