Bahrain’s Sentencing of Terrorists Draws Criticism


With the news that that the High Criminal Court of Bahrain has handed down life sentences to 12 suspects on trial for carrying out terrorist activities in the Kingdom and revoked their citizenship, the rumblings have begun in expected quarters relating to human rights and injustice.

The fact is that the 12 suspects faced terror-related charges of attempted murder, acquiring and using high-grade explosives against policemen and civilians, arson, illegal assembly and rioting.

According to the Bahrain News Agency, “the evidence presented by the Public Prosecution during the trial revealed that investigations had directly linked the defendants to six bombings carried out between 2013 and 2014 in and around the village of Daih in the Northern Governorate, which targeted policemen.”

outside court in bahrain
Outside the court in Bahrain.

The Public Prosecution had filed formal charges against the suspects based on evidence gathered during investigations, including fingerprints which directly matched five of the suspects to explosives and bomb-making materials found in a house in Saar, as well as the suspects’ confessions and witnesses statements.

However, they clarified that the suspects had the “full and legal right to challenge the rulings through the Court of Appeals.”

The smug rumour-mongers in the human rights camps as well as Iran, the party responsible for fuelling most of the sectarian troubles facing Bahrain, tend to project those jailed by the government after fair trials [which are often labelled show trials with nothing to support the distorted definition] and those protesting out on the streets as ‘peaceful’ and benign. In a layman’s language a peaceful protest is defined as:

  • A rally or demonstration by unarmed people shouting slogans without being hostile.
  • A sit-in in front of a government establishment.
  • A silent march.
  • Distribution of leaflets to present one’s complaint or viewpoint.

But what is often defined as peaceful has often actually involved:

  • Blocking roads with garbage skips
  • Burning tyres in the middle of streets
  • Obtaining permission for ‘peaceful’ rallies and ensuring they descend into chaos, violence and vandalism
  • Planting fake or real bombs in public places and on highways
  • Throwing Molotov cocktails, pieces of metal rods and stones at passing civilian vehicles
  • Compelling sand- or rubble-filled dumpers to overturn their contents in the middle of highways
  • Making unprovoked attacks on expatriate workers
  • Setting public buses on fire after asking the passengers to disembark
  • Setting fire to ATMs and parked vehicles
  • Setting fire to and attacking power installations and schools
  • Throwing Molotovs at midnight at government officials’ houses
  • Brazenly demolishing government official’s villas with bulldozers

One would like to understand from Bahrain’s detractors as to what exactly would they expect a western government to do if it was faced with similar scenarios. Look at the Paris attacks last week in which more than 130 people were killed. If those responsible were arrested and tried would they be shown any mercy or would human rights organizations clamour with a similar crescendo if they were convicted and jailed?

The fact is that numerous wide-ranging reforms have been carried out by the Bahrain government in pursuance of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report and even beyond that. But one cannot stop the opposition from continuing to claim what’s been done is not enough. Nevertheless, if while making those claims the opposition decides to descend to the level of thugs and filibusters, in the process often pushing the vulnerable and impressionable youth to meet those ends, the government has the right to protect the lives of other citizens and expatriates as well as public and private property.

In fact it has always been the Bahrain government’s desire to implement reforms and generally take a measure of the direction in which the nation should move after taking the opposition into confidence. That’s precisely the reason the national dialogue was revived in February 2013. It failed when the opposition walked out unilaterally.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.