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Middle East

Executions are latest rights violations in Bahrain

Bahrain has just executed three people. The official killings are the latest abuses in a country where the justice system has drawn international criticism.

Three men were put to death in Bahrain on Sunday, less than a week after the nation's highest court upheld their sentences for a 2014 bomb attack that killed three police officers. In 2015, Sami Mushaima (42), Ali Al-Singace (21) and Abbas Al-Samea (27) were stripped of their Bahraini citizenship; on Sunday, they were executed by firing squad.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights reports that the men were not informed in advance that their sentence was to be carried out and looked "surprised," according to statements made by their next of kin.

The center has also raised serious allegations about the conditions that the men were held under and the trial itself. The men had apparently been tortured repeatedly after their arrest in March 2014. They had been subjected to beatings, electric shock and sexual assaults. On its website, the center also alleges that their trial was unfair, but does not go into detail as to why. Additionally, the center has criticized the court for dismissing or ignoring the men's reports that they had been tortured.

The men were the first to be executed in Bahrain since 2010. Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, co-director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, described the executions as a "security threat to Bahrain and the entire area."

Like the men executed on Sunday, 70 percent of Bahrain's population is Shiite. The members of the Royal Family are Sunni Muslims. For years, Shiites have faced discrimination. There have often been clashes between Shiite demonstrators and the police.

Rights violated daily

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly reported human rights violations in Bahrain. In its World Report 2017, HRW refers to a "clear" deterioration of Bahrain's human rights situation since mid-2016. That is when authorities disbanded the source of its strongest political opposition,the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, whose leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, was arrested. Police also captured human rights activists and Shiite clerics who protested peacefully.

In his first trial, Ali Salman was sentenced to four years in prison and then was given nine years in his appeal. HRW reports a "coordinated attack on freedom expression and assembly." The organization stresses that "the human rights situation has significantly deteriorated." A political solution for the domestic unrest in Bahrain seems "all the more unlikely."

Amnesty called the Salman verdict "another example of Bahrain's blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression."

Bahrain Sheikh Ali Salman (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Mahdi)

International rights groups have criticized Bahrain's government for imprisoning Salman

An open letter

Many opposition members and government critics are imprisoned in Bahrain. The human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, the founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been in prison since 2016. He faces a 15-year jail sentence for, among other things, criticizing Saudi Arabia's military operations in Yemen.

On December 22, an open letter written by Rajab addressing the governments of France and Germany was published in the French daily newspaper Le Monde. The letter called for the countries to reconsider their relations with Bahrain. He wrote that his trial was nothing unusual in the country: "Thousands of Bahrainis find themselves in jail because they have criticized the government and demonstrated against it." He also criticizes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a close national ally. Saudi Arabia sent security forces to Bahrain in 2011 to help put down Arab Spring protests.

Rajab wrote that "the ultimate irony" is that Saudi Arabia claims to be helping the legitimate government of Yemen and Syrians fighting for freedom, while one of "the most violent governments worldwide" runs Saudi Arabia itself. He describes the politics of the states around the Persian Gulf as disastrous: "Instead of opening the doors to the refugees, the Gulf monarchies have actually contributed to the flight movement."

Rajab's social media use has also come under fire. Officials are charging him with "spreading misleading and inaccurate information about Bahrain" and "rumors during wartime" on Twitter, according to a government statement. Rajab's trial continues.

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