[The following report was published by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights 13 March 2014]
The Terrorism Law in Bahrain: A Tool to Silence Dissidents
In 2011, the grassroots movement that started in Bahrain demanding democracy, rights and freedoms was met with large scale brute violence by the government. Extreme measures were taken against pro-democracy protesters, and thousands were arrested, systematically tortured and given lengthy prison sentences. The government of Bahrain began to more liberally apply its vaguely defined terrorism law to go after its citizens. Hundreds of individuals, including opposition figures, human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and even children, have found themselves on trial facing terrorism charges for simply exercising their basic human rights. The counter terrorism law known as “Protecting Society from Terrorism Acts” of 2006 is the main law used by the government, where penalties under this law are harsh and could include life in prison or even the death penalty.
The “Anti-Terrorism Law” has been internationally criticized for its failure to comply with international legal standards. The law is vague and lacks precision which allows the government to liberally apply it in prosecuting its critics and generally limiting basic freedoms such as the freedom of expression, assembly and association.
In 2013 alone, 328 defendants were tried for alleged terrorism crimes in 38 separate cases. According to a review by the BCHR, the majority of these cases lacked adequate evidence, and convictions were based mainly, or entirely, on the defendants’ confessions obtained under reported torture or secret sources that are never revealed. In a sample of twenty cases, the sentences handed down for the 231 defendants totaled more than 2500 years in pris- on. At the end of 2013, eighteen cases were still before court, in which more than 90 defendants were awaiting a final verdict. Throughout the whole year of 2013, there was an average of one terrorism case every ten days, which is an alarmingly high number for a country with a population as small as Bahrain’s.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is gravely concerned about the authorities’ use of the terror- ism law as a tool to crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and silence the opposition; for those who are deemed to be a ‘threat to public security’ are denied their right to due process, and ultimately justice. This law raises concerns mainly in regards to the violations of human rights committed in its application. There are also serious concerns that arise from the pattern observed by the BCHR in these cases, which clearly shows the targeting of a specific religious sect and political orientation.
[Click here to read the full report]