Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman, prominent figure of the Human Rights movement in Bahrain, shared a statement on the current Human Rights situation in his country as part of a side event to the 37th session of the Human Rights Council:
“Dear Moderator, panelists and respected audience.
I was scheduled to join you on the panel but a medical emergency has forced me to cancel all my prior obligations and commitments.
The use of judicIary in Bahrain to target peaceful activists and human rights defenders has witnessed a clear increase in 2017.
The Government of Bahrain continues to use judicial assaults against political activists and judicial harassments against human rights defenders. It has clearly failed in respecting its international obligation in upholding fair trials and providing equal protection of the law. Imprisoning hundreds of peaceful dissidents for doing no more than exercising their fundamental rights highlights the continuing abuse of the justice system to repress all forms of peaceful dissent in Bahrain.
In 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry report concluded that Bahraini courts had convicted hundreds of people on political charges relating to the exercise of the rights to free expression and peaceful assembly.
BICI recommended that “all persons charged with offenses involving political expression, not consisting of advocacy of violence, have their convictions reviewed and sentences commuted or, as the case may be, outstanding charges against them dropped.”
Even though, King Hamad accepted BICI’s recommendations in 2011 and stated that the government is committed to implement all the recommendations , 2017 witnessed the return of military courts. Human rights organizations have documented tens of cases where judges convict defendants of “crimes” based solely on the peaceful expression of political views or the exercise of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. The case of Nabeel Rajab represents a clear example that the judicial system of Bahrain has been employed to punish, silent and intimidate those who practice their fundamental right in freedom of expression.
In my personnel experience in 2011, I was imprisoned for more than 6 months and denied the right to communicate or meet my lawyers in that period. I faced beatings, electric shocks, torture, and degrading insults as a retaliation for demanding to meet my lawyers.
The first meeting with my lawyer was at the doorstep of my house on the day of my release after attending 5 hearings in military and civil courts.
My worse experience was after attending a military court in May 2011. I informed the judge I was severely tortured, denied the right to speak to my lawyer, deprived from bathing and placed in a confined cell whilst being handcuffed with a black cloth mask on my face (24/7) for more than 30 days.
Instead of upholding an investigation in my claims, I was dragged from the court room, beaten in the corridor and taken to the torture yard in Qiran prison for a torture meal. I recall standing in a row with fellow prisoners in-front of masked military men. They ordered us to crawl forward on our stomachs and to lay our hands on the ground. We heard their military steps advancing toward us, and we were lying on the ground. Once they arrived they hammered our fingers with iron bars.
The assaults committed by military courts in 2011 are undoubtedly the worse in the history of Bahrain.
The militarization of the justice system by the King of Bahrain in 2017 subjects citizens to massive human rights violations and is regarded as a knock down to BICI’s recommendations which clearly opposed trying civilians in military courts.
The recent death sentences and unfair trials by military courts serve as further evidence of the failure of the judicial system in Bahrain to uphold its obligations to the Convention Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic and Cultural Rights.”