Judiciary and absent Justice in Bahrain: The Death Penalty Cases

Respected …… as all of you are aware the topic I seek to address is “Judiciary and absent Justice in Bahrain: with specific emphasises as to “The Death Penalty Cases” I believe it’s important to understand the role of judiciary in fair and independent society. In the modern constitutional State, the principle of an independent Judiciary has its origin in the theory of separation of powers, whereby the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary form three separate branches of government. This independence means that both the Judiciary as an institution and also the individual judges deciding particular cases must be able to exercise their professional responsibilities without being influenced by the Executive, the Legislature or any other inappropriate sources.

Only independent Judiciary is able to render justice impartially on the basis of law, thereby also protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the individual. For this essential task to be fulfilled efficiently, the public must have full confidence in the ability of the Judiciary to carry out its functions in this independent and impartial manner. Whenever this confidence begins to be eroded, neither the Judiciary as an institution nor individual judges will be able to perform this important task, or at least will not easily be seen to do so.

Respected Guests,

Keeping in mind the what I just said, if one impartially observes the role of judiciary in Bahrain, it is in a shocking state. The fundamental problem lies with the appointment of judges who serve as stooges of the King as these Judges (the middle and lower courts) are nominated by the Ministry of Justice and appointed by decree by the prime minister. The Supreme Judicial Council, chaired by the King, appoints the members of the Constitutional Court.

Many of the high-ranking judges in Bahrain are either members of the ruling family or non-Bahrainis (mainly Egyptians) with 2-year renewable contracts. To secure renewal of these contracts for years to come these judges generally do not take decisions against the government’s interests hence compromise the independence of judiciary and the due process of law.

Putting a glance at Bahrain’s judicial decision on death penalty, it reveals that in recent years the Judges of the Bahrain’s military and criminal Courts convicted a number of persons for death sentence and also implemented the said decisions in contravention of Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Despite pressure from the UN and the international community, the death penalty continues to be part of the Bahraini legal system. Crimes that warrant the death penalty include treason, terrorism, apostasy etc. Particularly the absence of a precise definition of terrorism has allowed the Bahraini government to exploit its legal system so as to criminalise acts of opposition, free expression and assembly. Article 51 of the Bahrain’s Penal Code says that

“Every person sentenced to capital punishment shall be executed by a firing squad. The execution shall not take place without the consent of the Amir”

Not only does the death penalty itself stand in conflict with the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, but those sentenced to death regularly report instances of undue process, torture and violations of personal and human rights.

It is widely reported and acknowledged by International Media and agencies that Bahrain’s judicial system failed to, meet the standards of fair trial. It violated a number of international norms and obligations, including those found in the UDHR, the ICCPR, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The use of confessions obtained through torture is in violation of Article 15 of the CAT and the fair trial rights enshrined in Article 14 of the ICCPR. The defendants’ inability to meet with their legal counsel during detention is also in violation of these rights, rendering their detention arbitrary under Article 9 of the UDHR and ICCPR. For all these reasons, their execution would also be a violation of the right to life in Article 3 of the UDHR and Article 6 of the ICCPR.

In January 2017, Bahrain executed three torture victims, Ali Al-Singace, Abbas Al-Samea and Sami Mushaima. Convicted on capital offences following unfair trials, they were unlawfully killed by firing squad. All these were arbitrarily arrested, tortured to confess, and deprived of access to legal counsel. The courts dismissed the defence’s arguments and the torture allegations of the three were not properly investigated. They were sentenced to death in 2015; in January 2017, the highest court of appeal upheld their sentence, and they were executed less than a week later. Even their families were not informed of their impending executions.

Another prime example is the case of Sayed Alawi Sayed Hussain an engineer who was abducted by Bahrain’s security forces on 24 October, 2016. Another of the defendants, Fadel Radhi, was taken from his home on September 29, 2016. Both men were ‘disappeared’ for months: their families were not told where they were being held or what they were accused of.

In April 2017, Bahrain amended its constitution to enable military tribunals to try civilians accused of threatening the security of the state. Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, supposedly the intended target of the plot, appointed the judges that convicted the accused plotters and sentenced them to death. Lawyers for the men have not been allowed to see the evidence against them, and a gag order prevents them from disclosing anything heard in court to the press. Even requests from the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain to monitor the trial were refused.

The upheld death sentences are the latest sign that Bahrain is prepared to ignore human rights in efforts to deter dissent. In January 2017, three men arrested following demonstrations against the regime and tortured into ‘confessions’ were executed, Bahrain’s death row has increased dramatically from 7 to 25, amid ongoing concerns over the unfair trials and the use of torture to obtain false confessions.

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of international human rights organisation Reprieve, said:

“These verdicts, delivered in secret by an illegitimate military tribunal, are an egregious violation of human rights. The U.K. Foreign Office has spent millions of pounds training Bahraini police and prison guards, ostensibly with the aim of reforming the Kingdom’s justice system. Torture and executions are not justice. If Prime Minister Theresa May’s vow that Britain will take a ‘moral lead in the world’ is to be more than cheap talk, she must demand that these men receive a fair trial.”

Commenting, Sayed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy of London-based NGO BIRD, said:

“Today’s death sentences are patently illegal under international law – the men were subjected to prolonged enforced disappearances, sham military trials, without any respect for due process. The Court of Cassation has sanctioned Bahrain’s human rights abuses by allowing these civilians to be sentenced to death in military tribunals. The UK has a responsibility to call on Bahrain to immediately review its use of the death penalty.”


I believe that the militarization of the Bahrain’s judicial system perverts the rule of law and involved in serious human rights violations against the civilians. The recent death sentences and executions after unfair trials of Bahraini citizens is an evidence of a judicial system devoid of human rights considerations. It is evident that Bahrain is in breach of all international laws.

I therefore urge the international community to urge Bahrain to:

Introduce Immediate reforms in Bahrain’s judicial system in order to make it independent ad impartial.
Prohibit the future trial of civilians in military institutions.
Reinstate the suspension on the death penalty, with a view towards abolition.