Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Court in Bahrain Upholds Life Imprisonment for Democracy Advocates

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is concerned at the harsh sentences, including life imprisonment, upheld by a Bahrain appeals court against 20 Bahraini political activists, according to his spokesperson.  “He urges the Bahraini authorities to allow all defendants to exercise their right to appeal and to ensure that due process is observed,” his spokesperson added in a statement. “The Secretary-General reiterates his appeal to the Bahraini authorities to ensure the application of international human rights norms, including the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

The men, who include activists Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Ebrahim Sharif, were originally sentenced last summer to between two years and life in prison, according to media reports. The charges included espionage and “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution.”

Since February, there have been clashes in Bahrain between security forces and demonstrators, a year after widespread civil protests first emerged in the Gulf country.  In today’s statement, Mr. Ban calls again on the Bahraini Government to complete the full implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations. The Commission had reportedly found that Government forces had used excessive force during the crackdown in February and March 2011 and had tortured some detainees. 
“He reaffirms his belief that there needs to be an all-inclusive and meaningful national dialogue that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis, as this is the only way to promote peace, stability and justice in the country,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said.

The 17 recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry included the creation of independent bodies to investigate claims of human rights violations, the review of convictions and sentences of individuals detained during the unrest, and the avoidance of detention without prompt access to lawyers and without access to the outside world, with all cases of detention subject to effective monitoring by an independent body.

(UN Press Release)

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