First civilian to be tried in military courts in Bahrain since 2011

Fadhel Rhadi

In April 2017 the King of Bahrain ratified a constitutional amendment that allows civilians to be tried in military courts. On 9 May 2017 Bahraini authorities referred a civilian to trial before military courts for the first time since 2011. The Public Prosecution Office referred the case of Fadhel Sayed Abbas Hasan Radhi, a victim of enforced disappearance, to the military court.

Radhi was subjected to enforced disappearance following his arrest on 29 September 2016 by officers from the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). He was arrested at his home in Hamad Town during an early morning house raid. Officers asked for Radhi upon entering the home and placed him immediately in handcuffs and under arrest. The security officials were dressed in civilian clothes and failed to show any arrest or search warrants. Despite the Public Prosecution Office granting Radhi permission for four visits the CID refused to facilitate these visits.

Following his initial arrest his family were not told the grounds for his arrest or where he was being taken, they heard from Radhi two weeks after his arrest when he called and told them his whereabouts.

During the seven months that he was held incommunicado Radhi was not allowed access to a lawyer and was only able to contact family members sporadically. Family members reported to BCHR that during a brief phone call that they received on 10 December 2016 Radhi’s voice sounded extremely weak, to the extent that his father was unable to recognise his voice. His family filed a case with the Ombudsman in an attempt to gain visitation, and also approached the National Human Rights Institute (NHRI) for help.

The family were told on 9 May 2017 by the Office of the Public Prosecution that Radhi’s case had been transferred to the military court. By transferring Radhi’s case to the military court there are raised  concerns that more cases will be referred to military courts in the near future.

The international community has expressed concern about the trying of civilians in military court. Both the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have both held that military courts should not be used to try civilians.

During Bahrain’s most recent UN Universal Periodic Review (May 2017) numerous countries expressed concern over the use of military courts to try civilians in military courts, among others, the Netherlands recommended that Bahrain rescind the amendment of law 105(b) that allows for civilians to be prosecuted in military courts if charged of terrorism offences. Czech Republic further recommended that Bahrain review the broad anti-terrorism law and its implementation to ensure that it could not be abused, and used for the harassment, detention and prosecution of dissenters.

Furthermore, incommunicado detention is considered by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture as a facilitator of the perpetration of torture, and can, in itself, constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Removing detainees from contact with the outside world provides a period of time where individuals can be subjected to torture to force confessions.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights strongly condemns the use of military courts to try civilians and asks the government of Bahrain to:

  • Reverse the amendment to the constitution allowing for individuals to be tried in military courts;

  • Allow prisoners access to legal representation and regular visitation with their families;

  • Stop the practice of incommunicado detention in line with international law and regulations;

  • Immediately released Radhi who has been denied access to correct legal procedure