What ever happened to Prof. Al-Singace, a Bahraini enginner who “was taken forcibly from his home on March 17th and imprisoned without charge”?
I have an update received today from Scholars at Risk as a follow up to my earlier post.
The military Judge’s choice of rescheduling his appeal for September 11 is curious. I am not offering a legal opinion and am not familiar with this particular case; I am simply advocating for due process protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
From Scholars at Risk:
Professor Abduljalil Al-Singace is a mechanical engineer and professor at the University of Bahrain in Isa Town. He is also the Director of the Human Rights Bureau of the opposition Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy and authors his own blog.
Scholars at Risk learned that the first appeal hearing took place on June 29, during which 14 convicts where forcibly removed from the National Safety Appeal Court after they began shouting. The Military Judge subsequently adjourned the meeting until September 11 (Daily Gulf News, Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights). The Bahrain News Agency reported the establishment of a Royal Independent Investigation Commission, ordered by HM King Haman bin Isa Al Khalifa on the same day as the hearing, to research the incidents during the protests in February and March of this year (Bahrain News Agency, Peace Bahrain).
On June 22, 2011, the Lower National Security Court sentenced Prof. Al-Singace and seven others to life in prison during a trial against 21 prominent Bahraini opposition leaders and activists (Radio Free Europe, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, IFEX). The conviction took place despite the end of a state of emergency and martial law on June 1, which had given extra powers to the security forces and enabled the establishment of a special military-led national security court (The Guardian, New York Times, Reuters). According to a statement issued by the prosecutor’s office, Dr. Al-Singace will have the opportunity to appeal the court decision (NYT, Financial Times). While the Bahraini government recognizes that mistakes have been made, it has denied the routine abuse of human rights (Financial Times). This contradicts reports that several of the convicted activists were beaten by security forces after they where forcibly removed from the court room on June 22 and that torture was used to obtain forced confessions from the defendants (CNN, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Human Rights First). The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the trial proceedings and the long sentences issued by the Lower Court of National Safety that appear to bear marks of political prosecution. In an official statement, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Bahraini authorities “to allow all defendants to exercise their right to appeal and to act in strict accordance with their international human rights obligations, including the right to due process and a fair trial” (United Nations News Center).
The numerous charges that Prof. Al-Singace and the others faced relate to their alleged involvement in terrorist groups and reported attempts to overthrow the royal rule and constitution. Of the 21 suspects convicted, 14, including Prof. Al-Singace, were held in custody and pled not guilty. The remaining 7 suspects were tried in absentia (Gulf Daily News, Arab News, Trade Arabia, Human Rights First). The Prosecutor’s office said in an official statement that local and international media, Bahraini Human Rights Organizations and relatives have attended the court hearings (NYT, The Daily Gulf News, Trade Arabia). Human Rights First (HRF) however, reported that it was denied entry into the court despite the repeated assurances from Bahraini authorities that observers would be allowed in the courtroom. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights likewise denies having been allowed access to the court proceedings, despite the contradicting statements made by Bahrain News Agency, The New York Times, The Daily Gulf News and Trade Arabia. Other details on the trial proceedings also remained unclear. Some media reports indicate that the detainees had access to lawyers, medical care and family (Gulf Daily News). Other reports are more critical: HRF has labeled the court proceedings “a large show trial” “taking place in a highly militarized setting”. HRF issued an alert stating that despite government denial of a military trial, it is taking place in a Military Court in the presence of armed soldiers. According to the HRF alert, relatives reported that the 14 detainees were in bad physical and mental condition and showed signs of torture. They also had not been given enough time to prepare their cases and remained in solitary confinement despite a judicial ruling indicating otherwise (Human Rights First, Reporters Without Borders).