UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Thursday urged the government of Bahrain [OHCHR materials] to release detained activists [press release] and exercise restraint against protesters. Pillay called on leaders to "urgently conduct an independent, impartial investigation and bring all those who were responsible for assaulting and killing protestors to justice." She expressed concern over the prosecution of medical professionals and the death sentences [JURIST report] handed to four activists last month. Pillay said:
The trial of civilians before military courts is always a cause of concern. The application of the death penalty without due process and after a trial held in secrecy is illegal and absolutely unacceptable. ... The defendants are entitled to fair trials before civil courts, in accordance with international legal standards and in keeping with Bahrain’s international human rights obligations.Pillay also repeated calls for the government to allow an assessment mission from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Last month, 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. Days earlier, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] declared [JURIST report] a three-month state of emergency [decree text, in Arabic] in response to growing unrest in the island nation. The state of emergency came just days after a group of 22 Bahraini lawmakers, part of an independent pro-government bloc, called on the King to impose martial law [JURIST report] under articles 36 and 123 of the Bahraini Constitution [text, PDF].