Bahrain: human rights briefing

In a new briefing today, Amnesty International said that serious human rights violations continue to be committed in Bahrain. These include:

Following the declaration of the state of emergency, hundreds of people were arrested and in many cases detained incommunicado; some were reportedly subjected to unprovoked assaults at the time of their arrest, often at their homes in the early hours of the morning. Some detainees allege that they were tortured while held at undisclosed locations. In April, at least four detainees died in custody in suspicious circumstances.
A number of those arrested in relation to the protests have already been tried and sentenced by the National Safety Court. This is a military court established under the state of emergency that is being used to try civilians. It will continue to conduct trials after the lifting of the state of emergency on 1 June.
To date, those tried include 15 people who were convicted of “participating in illegal demonstrations” and “inciting hatred” against the government during the protests and sentenced in May to prison terms of up to four years. Amnesty International believes they may be prisoners of conscience imprisoned for their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Fourteen alleged leaders of the protests, including leading members of Bahrain’s majority Shi’a community, are now on trial before the National Safety Court - seven others accused are being tried in their absence. International observers have so far been barred from the trial in which at least one accused has told the judge he was tortured in pre-trial detention.
Death sentences
Four people have been sentenced to death on charges of deliberately causing the deaths of two police officers; two of these have had their sentences confirmed by the National Safety Appeals Court and now face possible execution.
Job dismissals
More than 2,000 people have been dismissed or suspended from their employment in the public and private sector, apparently for having participated in the protests.
Failure to investigate
The government has failed to conduct independent investigations into alleged abuses by Bahraini security forces in response to peaceful and other public protests in February and March. These include the use of lethal and other excessive force against protestors and assaults on medical workers seeking to help the wounded.
Amnesty is calling on the Bahraini authorities to:
* Release all prisoners of conscience
* Release all other detainees unless they are to face recognisable criminal charges and to be tried in full conformity with international fair trial standards, with civilians being tried before ordinary criminal courts not military courts, and without recourse to the death penalty
* Independently investigate all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, excessive use of force and unlawful killings and deaths in custody and bring to justice those responsible human rights violations.
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