News / Middle East

US Criticizes Severity of Bahrain Sentences

In this Sunday, May 8, 2011 file photo, a car passes a pro-government billboard in Muharraq, Bahrain, with pictures of jailed Bahraini Shiite and Sunni opposition leaders
In this Sunday, May 8, 2011 file photo, a car passes a pro-government billboard in Muharraq, Bahrain, with pictures of jailed Bahraini Shiite and Sunni opposition leaders

The United States is expressing concern about the severity of life prison terms handed down  Wednesday to Bahraini activists accused of plotting to overthrow the government of the Gulf kingdom in protests earlier this year. The human rights group Amnesty International meanwhile alleged that a “soft” U.S. approach to the case was a factor in the harsh verdict.

The Obama administration is criticizing the outcome of the trial in a Bahraini military court, but is in turn coming under criticism from a major human rights group for alleged “indifference” to the defendants’ fate.

A closely-watched trial of 21 Bahraini political activists, arrested for allegedly plotting the overthrow of the monarchy and colluding with foreign terrorists, ended with eight receiving life prison sentences and the rest lesser jail terms.

All but one of the defendants were Shiite Muslims who make up the majority of the population in the tiny Gulf state ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family.

Several of the accused were tried in absentia but seven of the eight defendants given life terms are in Bahraini custody.

Bahrain has been a key ally of Washington and hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet, though the Obama administration was critical of Bahrain’s tough tactics against the protests in February and March.

At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner expressed concern about the severity of the sentences and the fact that the civilians were tried in a military court.  “As President Obama said in his May 19th speech, such steps are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens. We understand that these cases will now go through an appeals process. We continue to urge the Bahraini government to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings, conducted in full accordance with Bahrain’s international obligations, and to create the conditions for a meaningful, inclusive and credible dialogue," he said.

Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa has promised to open a national dialogue on political reform next month but trials are to continue, including a case against more than 30 doctors and nurses accused of supporting the protests.

Local and international human rights groups condemned Wednesday’s sentences among them Amnesty International, which called them “harsh, politically motivated and patently unfair.”

Amnesty’s Washington-based International Advocacy Director T. Kumar said the Obama administration, while championing human rights in other Middle Eastern counties, has been “half-hearted” about rights abuses in Bahrain.

He spoke to VOA in advance of a meeting with State Department officials on Bahrain. “United States policy is extremely disappointing. The way they reacted to abuses in the region is totally different from the way they react to abuses, what’s happening in Bahrain. We will claim that the sentences that were passed today is in part because of U.S. indifference, and soft approach to Bahraini authorities," he said.

Amnesty's Kumar said rather than engaging in “wishful thinking” about a Bahraini appeals process, the United States should demand the immediate and unconditional release of those sentenced Wednesday.

He said a wide majority of the more than 500 people detained in pro-reform demonstrations in Bahrain since February were peaceful protestors.

The United States has engaged in a high-level political dialogue with Bahrain including several visits by Assistant Secretary of State for Near eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman.

Spokesman Toner said the State Department’s top human rights official, Assistant Secretary Michael Posner, was in Bahrain last week.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid