Bahrain must commute protesters’ death sentences

The Bahraini authorities must overturn death sentences imposed on two activists for the alleged killing of two police officers during anti-government demonstrations earlier this year, Amnesty International said today.Bahrain’s National Safety Appeals Court confirmed the death sentences against ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Hassan al-Sankis and ‘Abdelaziz ‘Abdelridha Ibrahim Hussain on Sunday.  The court commuted the death sentences of two other men accused with them to life imprisonment.“The confirmation of the death sentences imposed on these two men is nothing short of alarming. While the Bahraini government has a responsibility to protect the public and bring to justice those responsible for committing violent crimes, the government must not let these executions go ahead. “The death penalty is the ultimate form of cruel and inhuman treatment and ought not to be used under any circumstances”“We are urging King Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa not to sign the execution order for these two protesters, and to commute their sentences without delay”, said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “To execute these two men would represent an irrevocable step and it would plunge Bahrain into an even deeper human rights crisis than it is experiencing now.”The two men were convicted, with three others, of the premeditated murder of two policemen by running them over with a vehicle on 16 March. That day, the security forces launched a fierce new crackdown on anti-government protests following the King’s declaration of a state of emergency, termed the State of National Safety – on 15 March, after bringing in Saudi Arabian troops to help quell the protests.Although they are civilians, the five accused were tried in closed session before the National Safety Court, a special military court.The two men could be executed within days if their sentences are upheld by Bahrain’s Court of Cassation, which considers only procedural technicalities, and ratified by the King. Executions in Bahrain are normally by firing squad.In a separate development, a leading human rights activist said tear gas canisters had been thrown into his home endangering his family.Nabeel Rajab, director of the banned Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said tear gas bombs thrown into his house in the early hours of Saturday morning brought his brother, wife and daughter close to suffocation before they could be helped to safety. Saturday’s was the second attack on Nabeel al Rajab’s home in a matter of weeks. In April, tear gas was thrown into his own and his mother’s home, apparently by members of the security forces  or people acting on their behalf.  No-one has been arrested for that attack.The authorities have banned Nabeel Rajab from travelling outside the country on account of his role in exposing and campaigning against human rights violations in Bahrain. Amnesty International is urging the Bahraini government to independently investigate this latest attack on Nabeel Rajab and to lift all restrictions on him.