Bahrain has executed three Shi’ite men convicted of killing three police officers in a bombing attack in 2014. Amid reports that the three confessed after being tortured, the executions sparked unrest in the capital Manama and has brought new sectarian tensions to the small pro-US nation.
“Our main concerns are related to the question of an unfair trial and convictions obtained under torture,” Nicholas McGeehan, senior Bahrain researcher for Human Rights Watch, which opposes the death penalty, told The Media Line. “The convictions were not exclusively based on the confessions but were primarily based on them. These men were held without lawyers in pre-trial facilities where we have credible evidence of torture in the past.”
The three men, Sami Mushaima, Ali al-Singace and Abbas al-Samea, are all members of the Shi’ite minority in Bahrain. They were the first executions in the country since 2010, and raised fears of a new crackdown on Shi’ites.
After the executions, demonstrations broke out in several areas, and human rights organizations say they were brutally suppressed.
“At the moment it’s descending into a human rights crisis,” Ariel Plotkin, a Bahrain researcher at Amnesty International, told The Media Line. “There are hundreds of protestors on the streets and we are concerned about excessive use of force. The security forces are using tear gas aimed directly at the protestors and some have been shot with pellets of birdshot.”
She said there are two other men, Mohamed Ramadhan Issa Ali Hussein and Huessin Ali Moosa Hussain Mohamed who are also on death row in the same case as the three who were executed. Their death sentences were sent to the King, and if he ratifies their sentences, the two men could be executed.
Both are being held at the Jaw prison, south of Manama, where torture is widespread, said the researchers from both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
In addition the authorities have ordered the online edition of the Al-Wasat newspaper closed, part of an attack on freedom of expression. A well-known human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, has been in jail for more than 200 days for tweets criticizing Bahraini policy.
“More than 300 people have had their citizenship taken away and most have been rendered stateless,” Plotkin said. “That means they no longer have access to basic services that Bahraini nationals have like bank accounts and passports. We also know of four men who were expelled from Bahrain and cannot come back.
In 2011, as part of the demonstrations of the Arab spring, thousands of members of Bahrain’s Shi’ite majority demonstrated against the Sunni minority rulers. The uprising was brutally quashed with help from Saudi Arabia, which sent troops to the island nation. Since then, the government of Bahrain has put many Shi’ite leaders and activists on trial.
Bahrain is home to the US 5th Fleet, and some activists say that the United States has hesitated to criticize human rights violations. In the case of the two men on Death Row, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action “urging the authorities to commute the death sentences imposed…order a full retrial where no evidence obtained under torture is used and investigate their allegations of torture.”