Bahrain acquits security officers of torture, sentences Shia cleric for free speech

On Monday March 7, Bahrain’s Second High Criminal Court commuted the sentence of a police officer, convicted of beating a prisoner, from two years to three months. That same day another Bahraini court upheld the August 25, 2014 verdict acquitting nine police officers charged in May 2013 with assaulting, beating, and torturing 13 prisoners. The victims of this assault sustained injuries that disabled them for 20 days.

In its 2015 report, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) documented considerable flaws in Bahrain’s judicial system, illustrating how Bahrain’s human rights bodies and institutions lack the independence needed to prosecute human rights abuses committed by security forces and Bahraini officials. The report concludes that investigations rarely lead to convictions. In cases where investigations did occur and go to trial, “courts found few members of the security forces guilty.” Often later, courts commuted or reduced these guilty sentences. In regards to the decision on March 7, the reduction in the sentencing of the police officer convicted of beating a prisoner comes in spite of there being video evidence. In contrast, on the same day, the Second High Criminal Court of Appeals upheld the verdict sentencing Shia cleric, Sayed Kamel al-Hashimi to three years in prison over charges of insulting Bahrain’s King Hamad, and inciting hatred against a religious sect in a Friday sermon. It is evident from these cases that the law is not being applied fairly across all sectors of the population, with free speech being criminalized and torture overlooked.

Tyler Pry is an Advocacy Intern at Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

Photo courtesy of Bahrain Mirror