Amnesty: Bahrain King Must not Ratify Constitutional Amendment Allowing Military Courts to Try Civilians

2017-03-11 - 6:43 am

Bahrain Mirror: Amnesty International issued a report on Tuesday (March 7, 2017) calling on the King of Bahrain to refrain from ratifying a constitutional amendment that would enable military courts to try civilians, paving the way to further human rights violations.

This call comes after the Shura Council, Bahrain's Consultative Council, voted unanimously in favor of the amendment to Article 105 (b) of the Constitution on 5 March and after it had been voted in favor by Parliament on 21 February. The amendment has now been passed to the King for ratification and could be ratified imminently, Amnesty added

The international human rights watchdog expressed grave concern towards the aim behind the constitutional amendment. Amnesty International stressed that it "unequivocally opposes the trial of civilians before military courts as they are contrary to the fundamental requirements of international law and standards for fair trial, including the right to be tried before a competent, independent and impartial court."

In its report, Amnesty International said, "In 2011, when Bahrain was under martial law, military courts sentenced scores of opposition and human rights activists, teachers, doctors and nurses for participation in demonstrations, treating wounded protesters and other nonviolent activities in grossly unfair trials."

According to the explanatory note drafted by the government's Legislation and Legal Opinion Commission, and according to the Minister of Justice who said that "those who engage in terrorist acts and violent crimes will be prosecuted by military courts as their acts are considered as armed assault". Amnesty International is therefore alarmed that the new amendment and explanatory note is vaguely worded and could be used to try before a military court any critic deemed to be a threat to Bahrain's national security or its "independence, sovereignty or integrity", including -- as has been the case in the past - peaceful activists prosecuted on trumped-up charges.

"Additionally, if military courts are deemed to exist to "maintain...the secrecy of ...information", this could pave the way for closed trials, denial of right to counsel of choice and other violations of the right to fair trial. Amnesty International is further concerned that military courts will also speed up trial proceedings in a way that further violates the defendants' right to a fair trial," the report further read.

Amnesty International expressed that it is further concerned that military courts will also speed up trial proceedings, as it quoted the Minister of Justice saying, "military justice is well capable of identifying military and armed acts against civilians swiftly and decisively."

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المصدر: Bahrain Mirror
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