Bahrain trials of protesters flawed: Rights group

Bahrain trials of protesters flawed: Rights group Dubai: An international human rights group on Tuesday criticised Bahrain's trials of anti-government protesters and opposition figures during last year's uprising in the Gulf nation, saying they failed to live up to international standards.

Bahrain has put on trial hundreds of protesters and opposition figures as well as doctors and nurses who treated injured demonstrators during the unrest for taking part in the Shiite-led campaign for greater rights from Sunni rulers.

Human Rights Watch said the proceedings against protesters in civilian courts and military-style tribunals violated international standards for fair trials, including denying the right to counsel and failing to investigate allegations of torture during interrogations.

"These violations reflect serious, systematic problems with Bahrain's criminal justice system and the role of the military and intelligence services in state oppression," the New York-based group said in a statement introducing a 90-page on the uprising-linked trials in Bahrain.

A special security court with military prosecutors has convicted dozens of people of anti-state crimes and sentenced them to lengthy prison terms. The special tribunal was set up after Bahrain imposed martial law last March to quell the unprecedented political unrest.

Bahrain lifted emergency rule in June. Five months later, authorities abolished the military-linked court and transferred protest-related trials to civilian courts after an international panel investigating the unrest criticised the use of the military-style courts to prosecute government opponents.

After the special tribunal trials were halted, the military prosecutors referred 1,622 cases to civilian courts, the state-run Bahrain News Agency said in a report Sunday, citing the country's Supreme Judicial Council that had been charged with reviewing protest-related proceedings.

Of those 1,622 cases, 1,185 were "shelved," BNA said. It did not say what the charges against the 1,185 defendants were and whether all of them were dropped.

More than 40 people have been killed since Bahrain's majority Shiites took their grievances against the ruling Sunni dynasty to the streets in unprecedented numbers a year ago. Hundreds of opposition supporters were detained in a wave security sweeps and raids around the strategic Gulf island, the home of the US Navy's 5th Fleet.