Bahrain: Update on Alternative Sentencing

Introduced in Bahrain in 2017, the Alternative Penalties and Procedures Law has seen a heightened implementation by King Hamad bin Isa AlKhalifa and the Public Prosecutors Office this December 2019. 

While 80 minors were released as a celebration for the first victory of Bahrain in the Gulf Cup in Qatar, 269 prisoners were pardoned on the eve of National Day, celebrated on December 16th and 17th.

The Alternative Penalties and Procedures Law, enacted in 2017, provides that, for inmates who have served at least half of their sentences, have been of good conduct, are not a public security risk, and have paid their financial liabilities, it is possible to be released under alternative sentencing, meaning that they can be put on house arrest and be required to perform hours of community service.

According to the Public Prosecutor Office, the total number of inmates who have been released under alternative sentencing since the introduction of the law are 1,116, and the overwhelming majority of them was released in December. Among them there are Medina Ali, unlawfully arrested in 2017 on charges related to political unrest, and sisters Amal, Iman and Fatima Ali, detained since 2018, also following a sentence over political issues.

ECDHR welcomes any release of prisoners unlawfully convicted for exercising their fundamental freedoms of speech, assembly, and association, but calls to remember the several thousand inmates that remain in prison in Bahrain on political charges, victims of a judiciary system that lacks independence and does not meet international standards of granting fair trials. Among them, to not forget human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who was denied alternative sentencing in September of this year.

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