Amnesty International is asking Manama to either release the Bahrainis detained for their participation in the peaceful Diraz sit-in or try them in individualized proceedings that meet fair trial standards.
In a statement on Monday, the rights group also called on the UN Human Rights Council “to prioritize critical scrutiny of Bahrain’s record and on Council members to speak out against the ongoing repression there.”
167 defendants were convicted last month over their alleged links to the sit-in and slapped with sentences ranging from six months to ten years behind bars.
The round-the-clock protest was staged in support of Bahrain’s highest religious authority Sheikh Isa Qassim near his home in Diraz.
It was attacked by Manama’s security forces in May 2017, leaving several protesters dead and hundreds arrested.
“Most of the defendants were charged with ‘unlawful assembly,’ ‘riotous behavior,’ or a combination of the two. Bahrain’s definition of the more serious charge of ‘riotous behavior’ is vague enough that it may be applied to include non-violent participants in a protest where violence breaks out. This is a clear violation of the right to freedom of public assembly,” Amnesty explains.
“The text of the verdict in the Duraz case demonstrates how profoundly unsound the proceedings were,” the rights group added. “The verdict contains no discussion of evidence, no consideration of defense arguments, and no legal analysis. A reasoned judgment has not been issued to date.”
Describing the convictions and sentences as “a substantial further blow against the right to freedom of assembly and the right to fair trial” in the Gulf kingdom, Amnesty pointed out that the court ruling came during the same week in which Bahrain took up its seat as a new member of the Human Rights Council.