Rights groups urge Bahrain to stop execution of protesters

Sixteen international and Bahraini human rights groups have urged Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to commute the death sentences handed down to two nationals, stressing that the pair who suffered alleged torture were not afforded a fair trial. 

Back in February 2014, Bahraini security forces detained Hussain Moosa, 34, and Mohamed Ramadhan, 37, accusing them of attacking police “with terrorist purpose,” and an alleged bombing that year in the village of al-Dair that led to the death of a policeman.

In December that year, Moosa, a hotel employee, and Ramadhan, a security guard at Bahrain International Airport, were initially handed down death sentences by a criminal court.

The pair appealed the sentences and the case was referred to the High Criminal Court of Appeal, which confirmed the verdicts in March 2015. Eight months later, the case reached the Court of Cassation that upheld the rulings.

The death penalties were later overturned after the emergence of a previously undisclosed medical report by the Bahraini Interior Ministry. The report, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), appeared to corroborate assertions that both men had been tortured to give false confessions.

However, an appeals court finally reinstated the death sentences in January 2020, and earlier this month, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld them against the two anti-regime activists.

Addressing the Bahraini king, the letter by 16 human rights groups, including the HRW and Amnesty International, urged him not to ratify the death sentences imposed on Moosa and Ramadan, and to ensure that they are not executed.  

“There are 10 other detainees in Bahrain sentenced to death and who are at imminent risk of execution pending your ratification…. Bahrain should join the many countries already committed to the UN General Assembly’s December 18, 2007 resolution calling for a moratorium on executions, with the aim of abolishing the death penalty,” the rights groups said in the letter. 

They added, “Therefore, we further urge you to: immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing capital punishment in Bahrain; commute all outstanding death sentences to terms of imprisonment, and conduct a comprehensive review of Bahrain’s death row, with a view to ensuring that victims of human rights abuses unlawfully sentenced to death receive redress.”

Both defendants said their confessions had been obtained under torture and that neither of them was able to meet with his lawyer any time before the trial.

“Bahrain’s King Hamad should correct this grave miscarriage of justice and ensure that Hussein Ali Moosa and Mohamed Ramadan are not executed,” said Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at the HRW.

According to the Bahraini law, after the Court of Cassation confirms a death sentence, the ruling is sent to the king, who has the power to ratify the sentence, commute it, or grant a pardon. 

At least ten other detainees, sentenced to death, are behind bars in Bahrain’s prisons and are at imminent risk of execution pending King Hamad’s ratification.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International expressed regret that the last-ditch efforts for seeing some modicum of justice in Bahrain were crushed when the Court of Cassation reaffirmed the death sentences for Moosa and Ramadhan, despite evidence that they were tortured during their interrogation.

Bahrain has seen anti-regime protests over the past nine years. The major demand has been the ouster of the Al Khalifah regime and establishment of a just and conclusive system representing all Bahraini nationals.

The Manama regime, in return, has ignored the calls and is pressing ahead with its heavy-handed crackdown and persecution of human rights campaigners and political dissidents.

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