Two men in Bahrain have been executed for terrorism. The charges were imposed on them after being accused of joining a militia group and engaging in terrorist activity that resulted in the death of a security guard. The pair, Ali al-Arab and Ahmad al-Malali, were arrested in 2017 but did not undergo a trial until 2018. They were allegedly tortured and ”prevented from attending their trial and sentenced to death in absentia,” according to Al Jazeera. Despite many human rights groups (such as Human Rights Watch), Middle East experts, and UN representatives’ condemnation of the kingdom’s decision, the King continued with the executions.
Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf, said: “If the Bahraini authorities go through with these executions it would be an utterly shameful show of contempt for human rights. The death penalty is an abhorrent assault on the right to life and the utmost cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Its use is appalling in all circumstances, but it is all the more shocking when it is imposed after an unfair trial in which the defendants were tortured to ‘confess.'”
The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, said the following to the Bahraini government: “The authorities in Bahrain must immediately halt any plans to execute these men, annul the death sentences against them and ensure they are retried in accordance with international law and standards.”
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy’s Director Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, stated that “Ali and Ahmed were brutally tortured and forced to sign false confessions, yet their executions now seem inevitable. It appears that the Bahrain government planned this meticulously, timing the executions to coincide with U.S., E.U. and U.K. legislative recesses in order to avoid international scrutiny. They must not be able to get away with this. The international community must do all it can to prevent these executions going ahead.”
Bahraini human-rights activist Maryam Alkhawaja pointed out that it may not be coincidental that these executions took place around the same time that the United States reinstated the use of capital punishment, saying that “Gulf States always feel they need a green light to commit the violence they commit. If the U.S. is going to start federal executions again, the Bahrain government feels it has the green light to do the same.”
The 2011 uprising in Bahrain was one of the most violent of the Arab Spring. As protesters camped out in Pearl Roundabout, more than 80 civilians were killed, and those that were arrested were tortured. With this and the recent executions in mind, the kingdom has been branded a ”rogue state.” They have the freedom to act in this way because of their close allyship with leading nations Saudi Arabia and the United States. Moreover, it is significant to point out that the two men were from Shia communities, one of the most repressed populations in Bahrain. They have claimed to be victims of systemic discrimination and are antagonized consistently, namely when they were blamed for the Arab Spring uprisings.
The kingdom of Bahrain has been criticized extensively since their clear human rights abuses in the Arab Spring but these abuses have been ongoing. Since 1974, State Security Law in Bahrain has pardoned torture against mass opposition to the regime. The crackdown on the Shia population was a result of a 1981 failed coup attempt, allegedly by Shia militants, in response to the State Security Law.
The fact that these executions have drawn so much international attention demonstrate that the kingdom’s human rights abuses have been ignored for far too long. Also, it shows the governments that have supported the actions of these regimes have been blinded by allyship.
These executions are clearly a violation of the Bahraini citizens’ rights and the lack of justification by the government are worrying, especially for the Shia majority if these prove to be sectarian-motivated deaths. Bahrain may not receive any pressure to begin fair trials from our world’s most powerful nations, but human rights groups and experts warn that giving Bahrain a pass to violate human rights sends out the message that there is no consequence for abuses against one’s own citizens.
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