On 13 November 2018, Bahrain’s Fourth Criminal Court sentenced four people to death for alleged terrorism-related offenses in an incident dating back to 18 June 2017. At the time, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) reported that a police car had been detonated in the village of al-Duraz. Three of the convicts were prosecuted in absentia and one is still under arrest, Hussein Abdullah Marhoun. In addition to this, three others were sentenced to life imprisonment in the same case, and the court decided to revoke the Bahraini nationality of all seven defendants and fine them 1,000 Bahraini Dinars.

These charges are related to an incident alleged by the MOI, that a police car was blown up in al-Duraz on June 18, 2017, resulting in the death of a police officer. This incident was announced on the MOI’s Twitter account but did not provide any further details about the bombing and does not allow neutral observers and the media to inspect the site of these bombings and other such incidents.

Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Salam DHR) condemns all such acts of violence, however, the organisation questions the allegations of the MOI, both in this specific incident and other similar cases. We have previously called upon the Bahraini authorities to be transparent with such incidents and allow neutral parties to attend and inspect these alleged sites and the resulting damage on the ground.

It is noteworthy that all seven defendants were prosecuted under the provisions of the Bahraini terrorism law, and the Bahraini judiciary did not investigate the claims made by one of the defendants, Hussein Abdullah Marhoun, that his confessions were obtained under torture, which would render them invalid.

Four of the defendants were handed the death penalty, based on Article 10 of 2013. This article guarantees a minimum sentence of ten years for anyone who has initiated or attempted to cause an explosion or terrorist act, and guarantees the death penalty or life imprisonment if resulting in the death or injury of a person.

The Bahraini Constitution states confessions extracted under coercion and torture to be void. The accused Hussein Abdullah Marhoun told the Public Prosecution during the interrogation that his confessions were extracted under torture by the Bahraini intelligence and stated this again during the trial itself, but neither the Public Prosecution nor the judiciary had investigated these allegations, which may invalidate the confessions under international law and according to the Bahraini Constitution.

Yousif Almuhafdah, Vice-President of Salam DHR, posted a comment on his Twitter account on July 10, 2017, (alongside a picture of Hussein Abdullah’s injuries): “look at the extent of the torture of Hussein Abdullah Marhoun, whose features have changed in less than two weeks since his arrest and transfer to the investigation building?”

From the criminal point of view, the international human rights community demands the abolition of the death penalty because it holds no deterrent value. From the human rights perspective, the demands to abolish the death penalty are based on the possibility that such sentences may be used for political purposes, such as political revenge. Given that in Bahrain there is no separation of powers, with all the powers are under the legal and constitutional control of the King of Bahrain, nor is there an independent and impartial judiciary, with the judiciary lacking the most basic conditions of fair trials, this will inevitably eliminate the provisions of the judicial process. Hence, the general provisions related to the death penalty in particular lack any integrity, transparency and fair litigation, and any judgments issued by such a judiciary merit opposition, disabling and the use of international veto.

Since 2011, the Bahraini judiciary has issued dozens of death sentences and currently 22 people are facing the death penalty. Three people were executed by firing squad on 15 January 2017.

Recommendations

We recommend that the relevant human rights bodies, including the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), make efforts to prevent the use of the death penalty in countries like Bahrain that lack justice and equity and are known to use formal trials to incriminate their political and human rights opponents. We also urge the international community to exert pressure on the government of Bahrain to abolish the death penalty against political and human rights activists who exercise their right to freedom of expression. We are also calling for pressure to be exerted to allow special rapporteurs to visit Bahrain and meet with those people sentenced to death.