Bahrain handing death sentences after ‘sham trials’: Report

In a joint report, two rights groups allege torture and coercion were used to obtain confessions and call on the government to reinstate a moratorium on executions.

Bahraini courts have run “sham trials” that have led to the convictions and death sentences of eight men, according to a joint report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

In a report titled, ‘The Court is Satisfied with the Confession’: Bahrain Death Sentences Follow Torture, Sham Trials, which was released on Monday, the rights groups claimed that the men were convicted based on confessions obtained through torture and coercion.

“The many human rights violations that underlie these death sentences reflect not a justice system but a pattern of injustice,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW, in a statement.

The rights groups said some defendants were denied access to evidence used at trial and, in one case, a defendant was not allowed to cross-examine “secret sources”. None of the defendants was allowed counsel during their interrogations, the rights groups alleged.

“It is particularly appalling to sentence people to death amid torture allegations and after manifestly unfair trials,” said Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, an HRW consultant and primary author of the report.

He called for officials to “commute all death sentences immediately and … reinstate the de-facto moratorium on executions”.

The report identified the men as Maher Abbas al-Khabbaz; Sayed Ahmed al-Abar; Zuhair Ebrahim Jasim Abdullah; Husain Ebrahim Ali Husain Marzooq; Husain Moosa; Mohamed Ramadhan; Husain Ali Mehdi; and Salman Isa Ali Salman.

Last year, rights groups claimed that death sentences in Bahrain had “dramatically increased” since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

Death sentences in the small Gulf archipelago had risen by more than 600 percent, with at least 51 people ordered executed since anti-government protests erupted in 2011, according to a joint report published in July 2021 by anti-death penalty and human rights group Reprieve and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

Seven people were sentenced to death in the previous decade, the report found.

The joint report noted the use of torture, especially in “terror”-related death penalty cases, was particularly widespread, despite pledges for human rights reform by the government.

Some 88 percent of men executed in Bahrain since 2011 were convicted of “terror” charges, and 100 percent of these individuals alleged torture, the report found.

“Bahraini officials routinely proclaim that the government respects fundamental human rights, but in case after case, courts relied on coerced confessions despite defendants’ credible claims of torture and ill-treatment,” HRW’s Page said.

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