Exporting American Values: Military Tribunal in Bahrain Sentences Civilians to Death

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April 28 2011 11:43 AM

Exporting American Values: Military Tribunal in Bahrain Sentences Civilians to Death

The United States-friendly government of Bahrain moved on to a new phase of its effort to crush dissent today, sentencing four civilians to death in a closed trial before a military tribunal. The defendants were accused of having run over two police officers with a car during anti-government protests in March.

In the course of those protests and their aftermath, dozens of protesters were killed, hundreds have been arrested, and hundreds of other members of the country's Shiite majority were purged from their jobs . Wounded protesters were taken from the hospital into military custody. Even the monument at the center of the protest site was razed.

Bahrain remains a valued American ally in the Middle East, hosting the navy's Fifth Fleet. The Bahraini military is armed with American-made weapons, as are the Saudi armed forces that arrived in the country to help the monarchy impose martial law.

And now Bahrain, which had never tried civilians in military court before , is apparently borrowing America's post-9/11 legal practices. Time magazine reported:

"We have this legal black hole where no one knows what their rights are, what their access is, and they're really at the mercy of the regime," says Shadi Hamid, director of research at Brookings Doha Institute. "Essentially, legal protection is suspended — this is a part of martial law. Almost anything can be justified under the pretense of 'national security.'"

(According to the New York Times, lawyers representing detainees in American custody at Guantanamo Bay are

that deal with their clients, because they are bound to treat the material as classified even as it circulates among the general public. National security.)

Meanwhile, according to the Guardian, seven Bahraini students who protested outside their country's embassy in London have been


The trainees' lessons at the Gatwick-based Oxford Aviation Academy (OAA) were cancelled after a request by the Bahraini authorities, who have told them to return home immediately and face questioning. Some told the Guardian they would stay in the UK, fearing arrest and torture if they went home.


The students' training was arranged through the Gulf Aviation Academy in Bahrain, which is ultimately controlled by the crown prince, Salman Bin Hamad al-Khalifa, whose government is accused of killing dozens of pro-democracy protesters. The order to suspend the seven came from the GAA but it gave no reason.

Earlier this week, British prime minister David Cameron suggested it was possible that his country would

, despite a U.N. arms embargo. His foreign secretary, William Hague, reportedly told members of Parliament, "In certain circumstances, it is legal under the UN resolution to supply equipment to protect civilian life."

Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.



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