UN rights office raises Bahrain trial 'irregularities'
The UN human rights office on Friday raised concerns about heavy sentences handed down by a Bahraini court on over 50 protestors in the country, noting that there were "serious due process irregularities."
Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, pointed out that sentences for 20 medical staff, two leaders of a teachers' association and at least 32 other individuals ranged from three years in prison to the death penalty.
"For such harsh sentences to be handed down to civilians in a military court with serious due process irregularities raises severe concerns," he said.
Sources had informed the human rights office that the defendants "have had limited access to lawyers," said Colville, adding that lawyers were also given insufficient time to prepare their clients' defence.
"We even hear of people calling their families a day before the hearing to appoint a lawyer," said Colville.
The court also failed to investigate allegations of torture and prohibited recorded proceedings.
"All that causes concerns," he said.
"We call on the government to ensure that every detained person is charged with a recognizable criminal offence and has enough time to prepare a defence case," added Colville, pointing out that charges made by the court included illegal gathering to expressing hatred of government.
A Bahraini court on Thursday sentenced a protestor to death for killing a policeman after a crackdown on pro-reform rallies and jailed 20 Shiites medics charged with trying to overthrow the regime.
Thirteen medics were sentenced to 15 years in jail for their roles in protests, two others to 10 years and five to five years, including several women, according to the BNA state news agency.
© 2011 AFP