Bahraini authorities have referred a group of civilians accused of targeting security forces to a military court after the Persian Gulf kingdom’s monarch King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ratified a disastrous constitutional amendment back in April.
Bahrain’s state-run news agency reported on Sunday that Head of the Military Judiciary, Brigadier Youssef Rashid Fleifel, had charged members of a civilian “terrorist cell,” and referred them to the High Military Court to set a date for their trial.
Fleifel did not give further detail on the number or identities of those, who are to stand trial.
On May 9, Bahrain’s public prosecution referred the case of Fadhel Sayed Abbas Hasan Radhi, a victim of enforced disappearance, to the military court. It was the first referral of a civilian to trial before a military court since 2011.
“This is a shameful move by the authorities designed to strike fear in the heart of the population. It is also a serious blow for justice in Bahrain. Military trials in Bahrain are flagrantly unfair. And trying civilians before military courts is contrary to international standards,” Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office, said at the time.
She added, “The decision to transfer Fadhel Sayed Abbas Hasan Radhi to the military court must immediately be quashed. He must be given immediate access to proper legal representation, informed of the charges against him, and tried in a civilian court, according to international fair trial standards.”
Radhi disappeared for over seven months after his arrest on September 29, 2016 at his family home in Hamad town, southwest of the capital, Manama.
During that time, he was not allowed access to a lawyer and was cut off from the outside world.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.
They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.
Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.
Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.
On March 5, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide. King Hamad ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3.