Markus Löning, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, expressed great concern when he learned of today’s final appeals verdicts against a group of opposition activists in Bahrain. He issued the following statement today (7 January 2013):
I had repeatedly called on the Bahraini Government to protect the right to freedom of expression instead of punishing those claiming this right. Therefore I am very much disappointed by today’s verdict.
In order to find a political solution to the ongoing conflict the King now needs to send a credible political signal. In this regard, the Crown Prince’s recent offer of dialogue is a step in the right direction.
The activists were arrested in Bahrain in spring 2011 during the violent clashes that had been taking place there. A special tribunal sentenced some of them to lengthy prison terms, others to life imprisonment. Among the verdicts confirmed today for the group of 13 activists were seven life sentences. Representatives of the German Embassy and other EU missions were present in the courtroom to observe the trial. The sentences can now only be reversed by the King pardoning the dissidents.
Meanwhile Bahrain’s domestic political crisis continues. The so-called Bassiouni Commission, an international group appointed by King Hamad in July 2011, documented many human rights violations by both sides in its final report and issued recommendations on how to effectively deal with these past offences and prevent future ones.
The Government of Bahrain also committed itself to extensive reforms during the Universal Periodic Review before the UN Human Rights Council in October 2012.