‘Military courts in Bahrain should not be used to try civilians’ – Human Rights Watch

‘Military courts in Bahrain should not be used to try civilians’ – Human Rights Watch
By trying civilians in military courts Bahrain has returned to something that was a problem before; now we are back to the bad old days, says Human Rights Watch Deputy Director Joe Stork.

Amnesty International expressed grave concern about the rights of two civilians on military trial in Bahrain. Since April, Bahraini courts have had the power to try civilians accused of threatening state security.

The first suspect on trial was arrested at home in autumn last year and has not been seen since. Amnesty fears he has had no access to a lawyer.

The human rights group also suggests it is possible he may have been forced into making a confession. They say the other suspect has also disappeared and could be at risk of torture.

RT: What are your thoughts about this military trial?

Joe Stork: Back in April, when this was finally instituted, this is not something new. Military courts in Bahrain, back in 2011 they were called courts of national safety, and they were essentially military courts. One of the few reforms the Bahraini government instituted in the wake of the uprising of 2011 and the BICI report of the international commission which recommended doing away with military courts and retrying people before civilian courts. One of the few things that did was following that recommendation. Then again, now this year they brought it back, they reinstituted something that was a problem before, they made the reform, and now we are back to the bad old days in every possible way.

RT: Is Amnesty International in a position to make these statements, without presenting any evidence about the case or the civilians?

JS: I am within HRW, not Amnesty International. I am not in a position to answer for them. What I can say is that a military court should not be used under any circumstances to try civilians, no matter what the crime. Second of all, we certainly have documented ourselves the fact that torture is still used to secure confessions in Bahrain. I can’t speak to these particular cases and particular individuals but I can say that it is unfortunately very plausible.

Former Bahraini MP Jalal Fairooz: “It is against the Constitution which very clearly mentions that the military court should be solely for military personnel. It seems that the government of Bahrain just wants to tighten the [grasp] on the opposition and maximize the sentences. The difference between the military court and the civil court is that the military is very quick and without much of a defense for detainees. Now Bahrain is going toward more of a tragic situation.”

RT: Why are there so few reports on the human rights situation in Bahrain? The concern is mainly coming from foreign countries or groups. Does it have anything to do with reporters not being given access to the country?

JS: I think it is pretty crucial, the fact is that reporters that have written critical stories are not allowed into the country, many of them are banned. Human rights groups like HRW are not allowed into the country. Just yesterday a colleague of mine was prevented from entering the country. So this is pretty routine. And then lastly the very courageous human rights defenders in Bahrain, many of them are in jail. So, I think there are three reasons why we do not hear much coming out of Bahrain.

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