BHRM Warns against Politicization of Criminal Cases

On 12 January 2011, the BHRM issued a statement on the developments of the trial of the so called “Network of 23”, who are accused of inciting violence. The trial began on 28 October 2010, but was postponed due to the withdrawal of the defence council in December 2010. The Ministry of Justice then assigned a new defence council, but the defendants refused to cooperate, which resulted in the withdrawal of most of the lawyers on 23 December 2010. On 9 January 2011, the Minister of Justice was left with one option, which was to appoint 23 lawyers for the defendants.

The BHRM statement highlighted several facts:

Appointing a defence lawyer and allowing detainees legal aid is a basic pillar of a fair trial. BHRM stresses that the Bahraini Constitution guarantees the defendant the right to choose a lawyer based on his consent.

The presence of lawyers guarantees the protection of human rights, especially if the defendant is accused of criminal charges.

The first defence council was chosen by the detainees themselves and the withdrawal of the council (regardless of the legality of the withdrawal and its violation to Article 41 of the Advocacy Act) obstructs justice and undermines the legal rights of the defendants. It is the duty of lawyers to continually defend their clients by using all the legal means at their disposal. A defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

The defendants’ refusal to cooperate with any assigned defence council member is not an open-end matter. Legal measures should go ahead without any delay, and the detainees’ refusal to attend the trial sessions will not benefit them.

Finally, the BHRM expressed its deep concern regarding the possible politicization of the case and the unlawful influence on the Court. BHRM is also concerned that the legal institutions might be dragged into political conflicts, and that the defence system may be used as a political tool. BHRM also called upon the lawyers and the Ministry of Justice to find a fair solution, which would protect the rights of the detainees and prevent their prolonged detention without trial.