Amnesty International Calls on Bahrain to Resist Excessive Force Against Protesters, As State of Emergency Is Set to End Wednesday and Massive Anti-Government Demonstrations are Planned

Press Release
May 31, 2011

Amnesty International Calls on Bahrain to Resist Excessive Force Against Protesters, As State of Emergency Is Set to End Wednesday and Massive Anti-Government Demonstrations are Planned

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

Amnesty International Calls on Bahrain to Resist Excessive Force Against Protesters, As State of Emergency Is Set to End Wednesday and Massive Anti-Government Demonstrations are Planned

(New York) -- Amnesty International today urged the Bahrain authorities to resist excessive force against protesters, as activists called for mass anti-government demonstrations across the country on Wednesday with the repressive state of emergency set to be lifted.

The so-called “State of National Safety” was imposed by Bahrain’s King following previous protests. “The Bahraini authorities must not make the same mistakes as in February and March, when largely peaceful protests were violently suppressed by government security forces,“ said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director.

“As the state of emergency is lifted, the authorities must allow people to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association, “ Smart said.

The protests Wednesday are planned by the February 14 youth coalition, the same group which called for the first protests earlier this year to demand political reform.

The Bahrain authorities say at least 24 people, including four police officers, have died in clashes between police and demonstrators since they began in February.

At least 500 protesters have been detained and four have died in custody in suspicious circumstances. At least two thousand people have also been dismissed or suspended from their jobs, apparently for participating in the protests.

In a separate development, the military trial of 14 prominent opposition activists is set to continue on Wednesday.

The mainly Shi’a activists have been charged with alleged crimes in relation to the pro-reform protests that began in February.

“These defendants are likely to be prisoners of conscience detained simply for exercising their right to peacefully express their political views in public. If so, they must be released immediately and unconditionally,“ Smart said.

The State of National Safety set up a military court with exclusive jurisdiction to try those accused of offenses under the state of emergency although they are all or mostly civilians.

The court will continue to operate even after the State of National Safety is lifted. The court has already sentenced four people to death, although two of those sentences were reduced to life imprisonment on appeal. Others were jailed for participating in peaceful protests in March.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the government of Bahrain not to try civilians in military courts because they lack independence and fail to respect international standards of fair trial.

Suzanne Trimel
Media Relations Director
Amnesty International USA
5 Penn Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10001
212-633-4150
917-815-5964 (mobile)

www.amnestyusa.org