Bahrain creates judicial panel to review protest cases

Story highlights

  • Panel will be composed of judges from civil courts
  • Its members will review nonappealable convictions related to freedom of expression
  • It will not review convictions related to incitement of violence
Bahrain's top court announced Monday that it is creating a judicial panel to review some military court verdicts related to protests last year, the state news agency said.
"A new judicial body comprising a number of judges from the civil courts shall be created in order to review nonappealable verdicts issued in favor of conviction by national safety courts according to international principles of the right to undergo a fair court trial and to access a lawyer for assistance in order to achieve the principles of fair justice," said Sheikh bin Rashid Al Khalifa, the Supreme Judicial Council's deputy chairman and president of the Court of Cassation.
He was quoted by the state-run Bahrain News Agency.
The new judicial body will review nonappealable convictions pertaining to the freedom of expression but not those related to incitement of violence, it said.
The judicial body will then submit the cases to the Supreme Judicial Council "in order to take appropriate actions," it said.
The announcement came a day after witnesses said hundreds of mourners walked the streets of Sitra, south of the capital, behind the coffin carrying a 16-year-old boy who was killed during protests on Saturday. "We will sacrifice our souls and blood for you, martyr," many of the mourners chanted. Some carried the country's flag. A few held a red banner that read "Down with Hamad," a reference to King Hamad al-Khalifa.
Clashes also occurred Sunday in Sitra between protesters and security forces who shot tear gas at them, injuring several people, witnesses said.
On Sunday, the news agency reported that 11 "saboteurs" were arrested after legal proceedings related to an attack Friday on police in Nuwaidrat, a village located a few miles southwest of Sitra.
Those arrested were involved in an incident related to the throwing on Friday of Molotov cocktails on police patrols and attacking police in Nuwaidrat, the director of the general directorate of criminal investigation said, according to the Bahrain News Agency.
In a New Year's message, Chief of Public Security Tariq Al Hassan announced that 500 officers will be recruited from all sections of Bahrain society in an effort to improve community relations.
The officers will wear distinctive uniforms and police only the areas from where they have been recruited, he said.
Noting the highly critical report issued in November by Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry, which looked into the violence, Al Hassan said the task now "is to look at where we've gone wrong, to face our mistakes and learn lessons."
"I am determined to make people understand that we have a responsibility to ensure that whoever breaks the law will be held accountable, whether it is a private citizen or a policeman," said Al Hassan, who has 30 years of experience in Bahrain's police force and studied public security in the United States and Britain.
The commission, set up by the king, concluded that police had used excessive force and torture during last year's crackdown on protests. Abuse of detainees included beatings with metal pipes and batons and threats of rape and electrocution, commission Chairman Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni said in November.
The mistreatment included physical and psychological torture, intended to extract information or to punish those held by security forces, he said.
The report recommended a series of reforms to the country's law and better training of its security forces.
Protests demanding political reform and greater freedoms in Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority Bahrain began February 14 before authorities -- backed by troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- cracked down on the demonstrations, first in February and later in mid-March.
Thirty civilians and five security officers were killed during the protests, the commission said.