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HRW report: Bahrain convicting hundreds in unfair trials

Bahrain is convicting hundreds of opposition activists in unfair and politically motivated trials, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF] Tuesday. The 94-page report details alleged due process violations [press release] in both civilian and military courts. The report is based on information obtained from interviews with more than 50 defendants, lawyers and witnesses to the proceedings. It also includes recommendations to the government of Bahrain, the UN, western countries and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website]. The report urges Bahrain to conduct its own investigation into the actions and hold the guilty accountable. Additionally, the report requests that the country stop convicting people asserting their rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association. According to HRW, the Bahrain government should:

Withdraw all charges and expunge all convictions lodged since February 2011 in the National Safety Courts or civilian courts based on the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and all convictions based solely on confessions [and] release immediately all individuals who have been detained or convicted solely for the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. [Additionally, they should] terminate ongoing prosecutions and not institute future prosecutions against any individual based solely on the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
In early February King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa stated that Bahrain did not have any political prisoners and that the only people arrested were criminals.

In response to a report [text, PDF] released in November by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) detailing human rights violations [JURIST report], Al Khalifa swore that reforms would be made. Al Khalifa promised last month to amend the nation's constitution [text] to allow the National Assembly [official profile] more oversight of ministers and cabinet members [JURIST report]. In early February, a Bahraini court overturned the death sentences for two protesters convicted of killing two police officers during the demonstrations that took place in the country last year. The original conviction [JURIST report] was rendered by a special security court set up as part of the emergency law in place while the country's Sunni rulers attempted to silence a Shiite-led to effort bolster civil and political rights in the country. In December, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that the Bahrain government should release prisoners detained during peaceful protests [JURIST reports] and focus on rebuilding national trust in the government. Pillay's statement followed a visit by a team of human rights officials to Bahrain at the invitation of the Bahrain government.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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