Bahrain: police charged with torturing protesters

Seven police officers in Bahrain have been charged with torturing and mistreating medical professionals who were detained during opposition protests held in March 2011, authorities said Sept. 17. The police officers were trying to coerce the medical professionals into confessing that they committed misdemeanor assault and slander. The police officers' trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 1. The two police officers who are accused of committing the most serious infractions will be tried in the High Criminal Court, while the others will be tried in the Lower Criminal Court. Ten other officers remain under investigation.

In June, a Bahrain Court overturned or reduced the sentences for most of the 20 medical professionals convicted last September of participating in the country's pro-democracy protests against the ruling regime. The 13 doctors, one dentist, nurses and paramedics who were jailed for providing treatment to injured protesters all worked at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama, which was stormed by security forces in March after they drove protesters out of the nearby Pearl Square.

Protests and demonstrations in Bahrain have been ongoing since February 2011. Earlier this month the government of Bahrain announced that it would pursue legal proceedings against the al Wefaq political party, which it labels an opposition group, for engaging in anti-government protests in the face of a ban of those activities. Also this month, a civilian court in Bahrain upheld lengthy prison sentences for 20 opposition and human rights activists, including eight life sentences. At the end of August a Bahraini appeals court overturned the conviction of prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab.

In July Amnesty International urged the government of Bahrain to release all prisoners of conscience immediately. The Bahrain Information Affairs authority announced in July that they had brought charges against 15 police officers for alleged "mistreatment of inmates in custody." In June the government announced that it would pay $2.6 million in restitution to citizens who lost family members during the violent protests to comply with recommendations of an independent commission who concluded that Bahrain authorities had used excessive force and tortured detainees involved in the pro-democracy demonstrations.

From Jurist, Sept. 18. Used with permission.

Bahrain court urged to release rights activist leader

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Oct. 14 urged Bahrain's court of appeals to overturn the conviction of human right advocate Nabeel Rajab. Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BHCR), was arrested in June and sentenced to three years in prison on charges of participating in illegal activities and inciting marches through social media sites. HRW contends that there is no evidence of Rajab participating in violence and that his conviction is a violation of his right to peaceful assembly. Rajab is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday to appeal his conviction.

Bahrain has faced international criticism for its crackdown against dissidents since anti-government protests began last year. Earlier this month the Bahrain Court of Cassation upheld jail sentences for nine medics convicted for their involvement in Bahrain's pro-democracy uprising. According to BNA, the medics were working at Salmaniya Medical Complex, and, during the time of the uprising, "took over the complex, detained and imprisoned kidnapped persons, and transformed the hospital to a place of illegal gathering and strikes, in violation of laws." According to Physicians for Human Rights, at least 95 health workers were arrested in Bahrain after some medics treated those hurt by security forces and spoke out against the crackdown against protesters, which included firing upon ambulances.

From Jurist, Oct. 15. Used with permission.

Bahrain court cuts prison sentence for activist Nabeel Rajab

The prison sentence for outspoken Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who has been detained since July, was reduced by one year in an appeals court on Dec. 11. Rajab, founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was originally sentenced to three years imprisonment for leading unlicensed protests against the powerful Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa dynasty. The judge ruled on three cases against Rajab, each related to peaceful protesting. In one case, the judge upheld the original one-year sentence. The sentences for the other two cases were reduced to six months each. Just last week, several US Congressmen wrote (PDF) to Bahraini King Hamad al-Khalifa to "express [their] concern regarding Nabeel Rajab and other Bahrainis who have been prosecuted for crimes related to freedom of expression." It is uncertain whether Rajab will try to appeal further from the decision made on this week.

From Jurist, Dec. 11. Used with permission.

Bahrain reverses convictions for medics arrested in protests

An appeals court in Bahrain on March 28 vacated convictions for 21 medics who were arrested at a hospital during anti-government protests in 2011. The group of medics were originally charged with taking part in unauthorized demonstrations after treating protesters who were injured by police and have alleged that they were tortured and coerced into making confessions following their arrest. At least 28 other medics were also charged and sentenced to prison terms for similar conduct, but most of the sentences were overturned. Charges remain for two of those arrested as they failed to appear in court to challenge their convictions.

From Jurist, March 28. Used with permission.