State injustice: Unfair Trials in the Middle East and North Africa
Amnesty International MDE 01/02/98, April 16, 1998, p 58
The procedures followed by Bahrain’s Supreme Civil Court of Appeal, in its capacity as a State Security Court, have resulted in manifestly unfair trials. This special court routinely violates provisions of Article 14 of the ICCPR, as well as provisions of Bahrain’s Constitution.
When facing trial before the State Security Court, detainees are denied access to legal counsel from the moment of arrest until they are brought to court. This means that although defendants may appoint lawyers of their own choosing, the first contact can only happen on the first day of trial, just moments before the opening session. This violates Principles 15 and 18 of the UN Body of Principles.
Clearly, inadequate time is given for the preparation of the defence. Moreover, defence lawyers are not granted access to court documents before trial, so they can not familiarize themselves with the facts of the case before meeting their clients for the first time in court. Even after the first session, defence lawyers have only limited access to their
clients. Trial hearings are often held in camera.
During trial, the State Security Court is not required to summon witnesses to give evidence or for cross examination. Such evidence may be submitted in writing. Defendants can be convicted solely on the basis of uncorroborated confessions given to police or security officials, even in cases involving the death penalty, and even when there appears
to be evidence that such ‘confessions’ were extracted under torture. To date, it appears that no thorough and independent investigations into allegations of torture, which have been both frequent and consistent, brought by defendants has ever been carried out.
Under Bahraini law, there is no right to appeal to a higher tribunal against conviction and sentencing by the State Security Court.
The State Security Law is the root of the crisis
Bahrain gained independence in 1971. In 1970 the UN settled dispute with Iran as follows:
On Monday 11 May 1970 at 3 p.m. the fifteen hundred and thirty-sixth meeting of the United Nations Security Council held at the Headquarters in New York decided upon the status of Bahrain. Delegates from the fifteen nations represented at the Council had been in a position to study a draft resolution to the question of Bahrain based on the report of the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Winspeare Guicciardi, who stated: “The Bahrainis I met were virtually unanimous in wanting a fully independent sovereign State. The great majority added that this should be an Arab State”.
To satisfy the internal political forces that helped bring the independence of Bahrain, the Al-Khalifa allowed a half-elected Constituent Assembly to debate a draft constitution, that was later signed by the Amir and the Assembly. In 1973, the National Assembly was elected only to be dissolved in 1975 by the Amir himself. The pro-democracy movement demands the reactivation of the Constitution. The Al-Khalifa responds by killing innocent citizens!!
State Security Decree
( Amiri Decree on Measures Concerning State Security, issued October 22, 1974).
The roots of the Bahraini uprising goes back to 1975. Then, there was an elected parliament. The government attempted to violate the consitution by issuing a decree for state security measures empowering the minister of the interior to detain political suspects for three years without trial. This was the single issue that united all the elected members of parliament . None of the thirty members approved the government violation of the most basic of human rights and the constitution of the country.
The full text of the State Security Law is translated as follows: “We Issa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Emir of the State of Bahrain, cogninat of article 38 of the constitution, in accordance with the proposal of the Minister of Interior, and with the agreement of the Cabinet, decree the following: DECREE LAW STATE SECURITY MEASURES
Article 1: If there is serious evidence that a person has perpetrated acts, delivered statements, exercised activities, or has been involved in contacts inside or outside the country, which are of a nature considered to be in violation of the internal or external security of the country, the religious and national interests of the State, its social or economic system; or considered to be an act of sedition that affects or can possibly affect the existing relations between the people and Government, between the various institutions of the State, between the classes of the people, or between those who work in corporations propagating subversive propaganda or disseminating atheistic principles; the Minister of Interior may order the arrest of that person, committing him to one of Bahrain’s prisons, searching him, his residence and the place of his work, and may take any measure which he deems necessary for gathering evidence and completing investigations.
The period of detention may not exceed three years. Searches may only be made and the measures provided for in the first paragraph may only be taken upon judicial writ.
Anyone arrested under the provisions of the first paragraph may submit a complaint against the arrest order, after the expiry of three months from the date of its execution, to the Supreme Court of Appeal. The complaint is renewable at the end of every six months from the date of the decree rejecting the complaint.
Article 2: The proceedings of the Court shall always be held in camera and shall only be attended by the prosecution, the complainant and his representative. The proceedings shall be held at the headquarters of the Supreme Court of Appeal. They may be held elsewhere within or outside Manama, if the Court deems it necessary for the maintenance of the security of the country or for considerations of public policy.
Article 3: The court, without observing the procedures stipulated in the Law of Criminal Procedures, may lay down the procedures to be followed by it when it considers the complaints, taking the following into account:
(1) It shall issue its judgment on the basis of the documents submitted by the prosecution and the complainant.
(2) The arguments submitted to the Court, whether by the prosecution or by the defence, shall be in writing.
(3) For the sake of evaluating the evidence and forming its opinion, the Court may require the prosecution to furnish additional reports from those who took part in gathering the evidence provided that this shall be limited to persons other than those whose names, residences and places of work are considered to be secret and are not permitted to be disclosed in the interests of the State.
(4) It will be sufficient for the defence witnesses of the complainant to present depositions including information concerning the points which the complainant wishes the witnesses to clarify. The Court may refuse to request depositions from the defence witnesses of the complainant if it is of the opinion that the depositions required from them are irrelevant to the event in question. A decision on the complaint may not be postponed because of any delay by these witnesses in presenting their depositions.
(5) The documents and reports furnished by the prosecution shall be delivered to it in a sealed envelope following the issuance of the Court’s judgment. These may not be requested with regard to a new complaint unless there is something new that necessitates viewing them and this shall be permitted by an order of the Court.
(6) Minutes of the proceedings shall be written in one copy. They may not be reproduced or photocopied and, together with the documents of the defence and prosecution as well as the depositions of witnesses, shall be confidential. Following the issuance of the judgment regarding the complaint, they shall be deposited in the cabinet of the Court after they are placed inside a sealed envelope stamped with the seal of the President of the Court which has considered the complaint. It shall be prohibited to open that envelope or to withdraw it from the cabinet except upon a decree by the Court when it is necessary to view it in connection with another complaint. In such a case, a verbatim record of the procedures followed shall be drawn up, in which the condition of the envelope shall be indicated. Then it shall be resealed according to the above-mentioned procedures and deposited in the cabinet after the complaint has been considered. The same procedures shall be followed with regard to every complaint.
(7) The Minister of Interior shall be informed of the judgment of the Court as soon as it is pronounced, through a copy of the document containing the judgment.
Article 4: If the arrested person does not submit a complaint according to the procedure laid down in Article one, the prosecution shall submit the documents to the competent court during the period fixed for submission of the complaint, requesting that the implementation of the detention order should continued.
Article 5: The Minister of Interior may, at any time, order the release of a person in respect of whom an arrest order was previously issued in application of the provisions of this law. The detained person shall be released in any case on the last day of the three years referred to in Article one.
Article 6: All persons who are committed to specified prisons in implementation of detention order issued pursuant to Public Security Order No.1 are considered to be detained under this law and the dates for the submission of complaints are applicable to them; they are entitled to submit such complaints from the date on which this law comes into affect.
Article 7: The Public Security Law of 1965, the Declaration issued on the 22nd of April 1965 and Public Security Order No.1 are hereby repealed.
Article 8: A new paragraph (3) shall be added to Article 79 of the Law of Criminal Procedures, the text of which is as follows:
For crimes detrimental to the security of the State, whether they originate inside the State or outside it, which are stipulated in the Penal Code, the detention order shall be for an unspecified period. The person whose detention has been ordered may submit a complaint against the detention to the authority issuing the warrant if one month has elapsed after the issuance of the warrant. The complaint is renewable one month after the decree rejecting the complaint has been issued.
Article 9: The Minister of Interior shall implement this Law, which shall take affect from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.
Signed by: Emir of The State of Bahrain (Issa bin Salman Al Khalifa); Prime Minister (Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa); Minister of Interior (Muhammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa). Issued at Rifaa’ Palace on 7 Shawwal 1394 (22 October 1974).
The Parliament opposed this unconstitutional decree and after months of deliberations, the following was published in the Bahraini press:
Statement by Bahrain Members of Parliament issued on 14 June 1975 (few weeks before its dissolution on 26 August 1975 by the Amir of Bahrain). The statement declared the united position of all MPs towards the State Security Bill proposed by the government in October 1974. The statement was then published in the Bahraini newspaper Al-Adhwa’a on 26 June 1975. The translation of the text is as follows: ((A meeting was held on 14 June 1975 between the undersigned to discuss the crisis resulting from the decree law on state security measures. The conclusions of the meeting were:
1. The government to declare in an open session of the National Assembly that “in accordance with the report of the Committee for External, Internal and Defence Affairs submitted to the Assembly in relation to the decree law on state security measures, and that after listening to the views of all member of the Assembly, the government promise to review the decree at the latest by the end of July 1975. On that basis the government requests the postponement of the decree until its review”
2. The undersigned also demand that:
(a) The session in which the government declares the above shall be an open one;
(b) The term “review” bears the same meaning of abrogation of the of decree. This shall be recorded in an official meeting for the Committee for External, Internal and Defence Affairs. The latter shall also be attended by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Prime Minister.
(c) The end of July 1975 is the latest date by which the decree shall be abrogated.
Signed by the following MPs: (1) Sheikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri; (2) Rasool Abd Ali Al-Jeshi; (3) Ali Saleh Al-Saleh; (4) Abdulla Al-Madani; (5) Mohammed Salman Ahmed Hammad; (6) Mohsin Hamid Marhoon; (7) Khalid Ibrahim Al-Thawadi
Sheikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri headed the MPs in their opposition of the State Security Law. His opposition to this dictatorial decree has brought on him the outrage of the ruling family and their British officered security forces.
The Amir (ruler) of Bahrain responded to the MPs on 26 August 1975 by closing down the parliament and suspending the articles relating to the legislature.
Hence, the pro-democracy movement’s aim is the restoration of the constitution and reinstatement of the parliament.
Articles 1 & 2 of the State Security Act mean that the defendants have no right of appeal, as the Supreme Court of Appeal is the first and last court in the such a process. The Supreme Court of Appeal assumes the name of the State Security Court when dealing with political cases.
Pursuant to Article 7 of Decree No.7 of 1976 promulgated with respect to the Establishment of the State Security Court, “convictions passed by the Court shall be final and unchallengeable”. The detainee is exposed to physical and psychological torture to extract “confessions” on himself and other detainees.
Empowered by this unconstitutional decree, Bahrain’s security forces under the command of the British Col Ian Henderson have, over the past twenty years, victimized thousands of Bahraini citizens. Some of whom, such as Mr. Muhsin Marhoon a well known lawyer and a member of the dissolved parliament, have been detained for five years without trial or charges.
All government’s attempts to silence the elected members failed. The law was opposed by a solid block of 29 out of the 30 elected members of the parliament. Having failed to break the consensus, the Amir of Bahrain issued another decree, dissolving the parliament itself on 25 August 1975..
The same decree which dissolved the parliament also revoked several relevant articles in the constitution including article 65 which stipulates that new elections must be held within sixty days of dissolution of the parliament.
The government and its British-led security forces, continue to enforce the unconstitutional decree.
Widening the Scope of the State Security Court
In March 1996, the ruling Al-Khalifa family responded to the uprising by enlarging the State Security Court. By virtue of that Decree the jurisdiction of the State Security Court (SSC) was extended to include many “crimes” previously under the jurisdiction of the regular criminal court. The SSC sentences are influenced by the issuance of this legislation in this particular time to provide a sort of fake legitimacy to the SSC judgments which are in almost all cases are politically influenced. Especially that the SSC judgments are not appealable and there is no means to verify how sound are their bases by an upper court.
The State Security Court (SSC) was set up by the Penal Code (PC) issued by the Amiri Decree #15/1976 in Mach 1976 by virtue of article 185 of the PC which reads as follow:
“The perpetrators of the crimes set forth in articles 112 to184 shall be tried before a court the formation and procedures of which shall be determined by an Amiri Decree to be issued in this respecet.” Articles 112 to 184 deal with:
-Offences affecting the external security of the state. -Offences affecting the internal security of the state.
-Demonsrations and riots.
The SSC was formed according to this article in 1976.
That same article 185 was later amended in 1980 by the Decree # 4/1982 extending the competence of the said court as follows:
“The persons accused of committing the offences set forth in the articles 112-184 and other closely related offences shall stand trial before a law court which shall be formed and its prosedure determined by virtue of an Amiri Decree.
Accomplices, who have helped in committing the aforesaid related offences, may be send to the law court referred to in the preceding paragraph provided that they stand trial along with the perpetrators of the original offence and related offences before the said court.”
In March 1996 the Amir issued another decree to extend more the competence of the SSC to cover many other crimes like the use of explosives, murder or acts of assault on civil servants, arsons and others.
Draconian laws of 20 March 1996
Text of report by Bahrain radio on 20th March
Law No 10 of 1996, as decreed by HH Shaykh Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifah, the emir of Bahrain, was published in the official gazette today. It amends some of the provisions of the Penal Code, which was issued by Decree Law No 15 of 1976. The decree reads that the text of Paragraph 1 of Article 185 of the Penal Code, issued by Decree Law No 15 of 1976, shall be replaced by the following text: Perpetrators of the following crimes shall stand trial before a court, the formation and procedures of which shall be based on an amiri decree:
A. Crimes enshrined in Articles No 112, 184, 277 and 281 of the Penal Code.
B. Crimes included in Articles No 220, 221, 333 and 336-340 of the Penal Code if the attack is against one of the persons mentioned in Article No 107 of the Penal Code or their representatives while carrying out his duties.
C. Crimes enshrined in Article 18 of Decree Law No 18 of 1967 regarding explosives, weapons and ammunition.
D. Crimes linked to the crimes mentioned in the previous articles.
The official gazzette also published Decree No 14 for 1996, issued by the Amir of Bahrain. The decree amends some provisions of Decree No 7 for 1976 regarding the formation and procedures of the court enshrined in Article 185 of the Penal Code.
The decree reads that the text of Paragraph 1 of Article 1 of Decree No 7 of 1976 on the formation and procedures of the court stipulated in Article 185 of the Penal Law shall be replaced by the following text: The Higher Court of Appeal, which consists of three judges, shall be the competent court to look into the crimes enshrined in Article 185 of the Penal Code.
The UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group condemns the State Security Court
The UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group issued an important report in August, 1996 summarising the various conerns surrounding the unconstitutional State Security Law and Court. The first part of the report was as follows:
The State Security Court of Bahrain
The operations of the State Security Court (SSC) in Bahrain fall far short of international judicial standards, which are clearly defined by the United Nations, and as a result have led to grave violations of human rights. On March 20, 1996, the Amir of Bahrain Sheikh Issa bin Salman Al-Khalifa issued Decree No. 10 which drastically expanded the powers of the SSC by transferring numerous offences, previously under the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts, to the State Security Court. Lawyers in Bahrain, who wish to remain anonymous due to safety reasons, have confirmed much of the information we have received from various NGOs regarding: 1. The existing flaws in the SSC, and 2. The effects of the Amiri Decree of March 1996 on the SSC. It could also be argued that the procedural anomalies of the SSC amount to the practice of arbitrary detention.
The Bahraini State Security Court: Violations of International Standards
The following aspects of the State Security Court are considered to be at odds with the standards set out in internationally agreed instruments:
o The SSC is a court whose judgement is final and not subject to any appeal or challenge whatsoever, in accordance with the extraordinary procedures established by Amiri Decree
No. 7 of 1976. This violates Article 14(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which states “everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law”.
Many of the offences presided over by the SSC are punishable by death or life imprisonment. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has openly expressed its concern over this issue, saying “The Government of Bahrain is aware of HMG’s concern that, in accordance with the safeguards approved by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Resolution 1984.50, those facing the death penalty should be guaranteed protection of certain rights, including the right of appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction”.
o From the time of arrest until the first day of the trial, the defendant is denied all access to legal council, violating Article 14(3) of the ICCPR which allows for the defendant “to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing”. It also violates the constitution of Bahrain, which says in Article 20(c) that any person has the right to legal representation from the first day of detention. When the lawyer does meet the defendant, just before the trial begins, the time allowed may be limited due to busy court schedules.
o The SSC operates in three courts, one which is presided over by appointed foreign judges, and the other two which are presided over by members of the ruling family. Such a judiciary does not uphold the conventional safeguards associated with the appointment of judges. It could be subject to bias, as opposed to courts that comprise independent and professionally trained legal experts. The March 1996 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers states, “In addition to the traditional safeguards necessary to secure judicial independence, in the final analysis it is the character, qualifications and independence of the individual appointee that make the difference”.
o The state controlled media publishes the names of some defendants as guilty before the trial begins, violating Article 14(2) of the ICCPR that “everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law”.
o Defendants are liable for whatever monetary sum the relevant government ministry submits as “damage”. However, no proper estimation is performed to assess the actual value of the alleged damage committed by the defendant, leading to disproportionate sentencing.
o The primary source of evidence used for convictions is obtained from confessions while in custody. The Parliamentary Human Rights Group has routinely received reports of confessions extracted under torture. These reports are consistent with research done by Amnesty International who has found “[many] cases in which…detainees have been tortured in order to extract ‘confessions’ from them”.
o Individuals may be tried in groups, simultaneously, for unrelated cases.
o There are cases of individuals who remain in prison after their sentence has elapsed, sometimes exceeding a year. In addition, some defendants found innocent by the SSC have remained in prison in defiance of the court decision.
o Under the law of Bahrain, a person who complains of ill-treatment in custody is meant to be examined by a doctor. When this complaint is entertained, the doctor is always provided by the police. Theoretically the detainee can ask for an independent doctor to be brought in, but this is invariably refused.
Legislative Amendments: The Amiri Decree of March 1996
The provisions of the State Security Court were amended to extend its jurisdiction over crimes that were formerly dealt with by the ordinary courts’ Penal Code. The Penal Code is based on law by Decree No. 15 of 1976 issued by Amir of Bahrain. Originally, the State Security Court was only vested with jurisdiction over Articles 112 to 184, inclusive, relating to offences affecting state security. However, Amiri Decree No. 10 of 1996 has transferred the following additional offences to SSC jurisdiction:
o Crimes defined under Articles 277 to 281, inclusive, of the Penal Code, concerning damage to the public caused by fire and explosives including “setting up of fire in a way that may expose the life or property of people in danger” and “using or attempting to use explosives in a way which may expose the life or property of people in danger”.
o Crimes defined under Articles 220, 221, 333, and 336 to 340 of the Penal Code, concerning assault of any kind on public servants.
o Crimes defined under Article 18 of Decree No. 16 of 1976 concerning explosives, arms and ammunition.
o Any crime which is linked to another crime under the jurisdiction of the State Security Court.
16 December 1996: Human rights groups condems the security courts and laws and call for an end to human rights abuses in Bahrain
Four major human rights organization held a press conference in the British parliament today, 16 December, to state their position on the deteriorating human rights crisis in Bahrain. The conference was chaired by Lord Avebury, the Chairman of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG), and was addressed by Jeremy Corbyn, Vice- Chairman of the PHRG and member of the British House of Commons, Hania Al-Mufti of Amnesty International, Joe Stork of the US-based Human Rights Watch and Dr. Abdul Hussain Sha’aban of the Arab Organization of Human Rights.
Lord Avebury stated that today “is meant to be the occasion for celebrating the accession of the Amir of Bahrain, but for most of the people of the State, it is a reminder of their misery and oppression”. “For over 20 years he and his family have ruled the State more autocratically than Charles-1 ruled England in the 1630s. He has no parliament to deal with; the media are totally controlled; the leaders of the democracy movement are jailed without trial, and the State Security Courts, two chambers of which are presided over by members of the ruling family, routinely pass harsh sentences after trials which violates all judicial norms. The mildest and most respectful critics are dismissed from their jobs or compulsory exiled. The state has moved to control the appointment of Shi’a Imams, and to close mosques where the Imams have displeased them.” Lord Avebury explained that as a result of the ICRC recent visit to Bahrain, the authorities have resorted to new types of abuses, where persons are taken for few days, roughed-up and released. This serves to hide the cases from the ICRC and serves as a reminder to the general public of the reprisals awaiting them.
Dr. Abdul Hussain Sha’aban stated that “We have been following up the situation in Bahrain for a long time. We wrote to the authorities but they do not respond. The trials’ proceedings are all against international laws and the constitution of Bahrain. Those sentenced must be released or allowed to have a fair re-trial in accordance with accepted conventions. The people who are suffering inside the jails must all be released. We call on the Bahraini government to allow us to send a delegation for assessing the situation. It is not enough to check on cells conditions, as has been agreed with the ICRC, which is a good step, but not enough” .Jeremy Corbyn., the Labour MP stated that “the British government is a major arms supplier and trade partner and therefore has a role to play. We can use our position to press for respect of human rights and for restoring democracy. We understand that the government of Bahrain is very hostile to the opposition (inside Bahrain) but the least that they can do is to allow for monitoring the situation to assist those who suffer”.
Joe Stork stated The ruling family ought “to remember that there would not be a national day had it not been for the referendum on the question of the status of Bahrain in 1970. The very foundation of the state had been subjected to a minimal level of popular will. The government of Bahrain must bear this in mind. The constitution that was developed was a Bahraini one, not a Westminister- product. All Bahrainis (including the ruling family) have settled for a compromise in the constitution. Any change from this agreement must be referred to ALL Bahrainis.
No single party on its own (such as the Al-Khalifa) is entitled to re-negotiate without the consent of the others. The suspension of parliament in 1975 goes beyond what is officially stated. There is a total denial of freedom of expression; sharp interference in the affairs of the individuals, medical doctors, lawyers and professional find it difficult to progress their careers if they express their views, stringent control to prevent speaking to journalists, the BBC and any other body, forcible exile, torture, arbitrary detention, etc. Those who say that democracy is not part of the local culture must answer whether these abuses are part of Bahriani culture? I was in Bahrain last June when the government claimed that it uncovered a plot by a Hizbolla. No one mentioned that these people who were shown on TV had been in detention for at least six weeks and some of them for many months. And that these, most probably, have been subjected to the routine torture and ill–treatment to force them to appear before the TV. The sectarian polarization (fostered by the government) is poisoning the country. This is like poising the ground water which takes time to purify. We appeal to the Bahraini government and to London and Washington to take a closer look at the situation and to implement remedial actions.”
This is how a person is arrested and sentenced in Bahrain:
Hania Al-Mufti stated that “the abuses of the authorities are not new. What is new is the attack on women and children and the intensity of abuses. Bahrain is unique in the way it expels its citizens from their country”. She then described a typical case when a Bahrain is arrested.
“The citizen is arrested in a dawn raid, normally in a violent way. Members of his family will be abused. Contents of his house will be ransacked and some will be confiscated. The arrest is probably carried out by the SIS or the CID. No judicial warrant is present or is necessary for the arrest (in accordance with the State Security Law). The citizen is not informed about the reason of the arrest and is then placed in one of the detention centres. Under incommunicado detention, the person spends days, weeks and months being tortured until he agrees to confess.
Once a confession is extracted, the person is taken to an investigating judge. The judge asks him one question “Did you commit the crime?”. If the person says no, he is then taken back for another cycle of torture and confession extraction. Once the person agrees to say to the investigating judge that he did commit the crime (what ever it may be in order to have the torture stopped), then the papers are transferred to the State Security Court. The court waits for a time so that the wounds of the detainee disappear and then brings him before the judges.
Up until that moment the detainee had not been allowed to meet with a lawyer. The first time he see a lawyer is just before the start of the first session. The next time he sees his lawyer will also be before the start of a session. There is no time to study the papers and defend the accused. The accused is put in a cage at a distance from every body else. If the defense lawyer protests that the accused was tortured, the judge take a look at the detainee from the far distance and makes a judgment whether the accused has been tortured. In the rare cases, the accused may still look exhausted. The accused may be subjected to an examination. The result of such an examination never changed the mind of the judge and never resulted in the punishment of those who tortured the detainee. After three or four sessions, the judge pass an arbitrary sentence without explaining why and how he arrived at the sentence. The lawyer is not given any written confirmation of the sentence and has to refer to an office where he can only read the final version. This is the way Bahrainis are detained and sentenced, which is a gross violation of international human rights conventions and the constitution of Bahrain”.
Giles Elgood of Reuters reported from the conference saying “Human rights campaigners Monday (16 December) urged the United States and British governments to put more pressure on the authorities in Bahrain to release political prisoners and end abuses such as the torture of detainees. On the day Bahrain marked its silver jubilee, British human rights campaigner Lord Avebury said he had been told of demonstrations, a student boycott and reports of explosions in the Gulf state. Listing human rights abuses such as the forced exile of dissidents, the dismissal of government critics from their jobs and unfair trials, the campaigners called on Bahrain’s ruling family to enter into a dialogue with pro-democracy activists”. Reuters also reported “Amnesty International official Hania Mufti issued an appeal to the British, U.S. and other governments “to exert more pressure to try and alleviate the suffering of the people of Bahrain.”
Lord Avebury “said that Sunday, according to local people, lights had been turned out in residential areas of Bahrain in an anti-government protest, students had boycotted classes, tyres had been burned in the streets and two explosions had been heard, while one civilian had been injured… Avebury welcomed decisions by the Bahrain authorities to release a number of prisoners and to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to people in detention. But he said 18 people, including three boys aged between eight and 15, had been arrested this month and a pattern was emerging whereby people were detained for short periods and abused before being freed, to avoid Red Cross scrutiny. He also criticized the British head of the Bahrain security service, Ian Henderson, who is believed to be about to retire to Britain. “Torture in Bahrain is unfortunately rather common and it is a matter of shame and regret that the man in charge of the security apparatus and so ultimately responsible for these atrocities is a Briton, Mr Ian Henderson,” Avebury said. “I hope the law will allow him to be sued in the (British) civil courts by some of his victims or their bereaved families.”
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