Monday Verdicts to Test Bahrain’s Claims of Reform
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today said that the outcome of two major court verdicts scheduled for Monday in Bahrain will be a vital test of the regime’s response to international pressure calling for reform. Opposition figure Khalil Al Halwachi and human rights defender Nabeel Rajab are both scheduled to receive verdicts in their trials on trumped-up political charges.
“If Al Halwachi and Rajab are not freed unconditionally on Monday, their verdicts will serve as conclusive evidence that Bahrain is continuing on its dangerous path of repression,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The United States must go beyond complaining about the abuse and start taking action to stop it.”
Al Halwachi, a founder of the opposition Amal group, was arrested in September 2014 and has been tried along with 16 others on charges of possessing a Kalashnikov rifle for terrorist purposes. Like many in custody in Bahrain, he claims to have been tortured into making a false confession. He faces up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.
Rajab, a prominent critic of the Bahraini regime’s repression, was arrested in June and charged with a series of free speech-related offenses including “undermining the prestige of Bahrain” after publishing an opinion piece in the New York Times. He faces up to 15 years in prison. The judge set to deliver both verdicts is Judge Ebrahim Al Zayed, who in December 2012 confirmed a previous jail sentence for Nabeel Rajab. The U.S. State Department has called for Rajab’s release.
November will mark five years since the king of Bahrain promised to implement a series of human rights recommendations presented by an international inquiry. Human Rights First urges members of Congress to cosponsor bipartisan legislation—The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Accountability Act of 2015—which which would ban transfers of certain weapons and small arms that could be used against protesters until Bahrain fully implements the human rights reforms to which it committed in 2011.