Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] announced on Sunday that the three-month state of emergency [decree text, in Arabic] put in place [JURIST report] in mid-March in response to growing unrest, will be lifted two weeks early. The state of emergency was originally scheduled to expire on June 1. According to the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) [advocacy website], the trial for activists [BYSHR report] detained during the widespread unrest also started on Sunday. These people face a plethora of charges including terrorism, attempting to violently overthrow the government, insulting the military and participating in unsanctioned rallies. Fourteen of the defendants are in the custody of Bahrani law enforcement, while an additional six remain free. Some commentators allege the early lifting the state of emergency is intended to distract observers [NYT report] from the trial of the opposition activists.
Last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged the government of Bahrain to release detained activists [JURIST report] and exercise restraint against protesters. She expressed concern over the prosecution of medical professionals and the death sentences [JURIST report] handed to four activists last month. In April, human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) [advocacy websites] criticized Bahrain for rampant human rights abuses [JURIST report] related to anti-government protests. In March, six opposition leaders were arrested [JURIST report] after the government, backed by foreign troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) [official website], violently dispersed protesters in the capital of Manana.