The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) [advocacy website] reported on Saturday that more detainees have joined a hunger strike [press release] in protest of ongoing trials related to recent pro-democracy protests. The nearly 20 jailed doctors face charges in relation to protests and have begun fasting in objection to "continued detention of the doctors and other detainees at the Dry Docks prison, as well as the ill treatment and torture, not having access to legal counsel, and what they described as being ridiculous charges against them." Human rights activists Abdul Jalil al-Singace and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who were sentenced to life in prison in June, also joined the hunger strike. The detainees maintain that if the trials take place, they should be held in civil courts [Al Jazeera report] rather than military tribunals.
Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official profile] announced last week that he will dismiss charges against some of the protesters [JURIST report] detained for their participation in pro-democracy demonstrations in the country. In June, Bahrain's Lower National Safety Court sentenced 21 activists [JURIST report] for anti-government protests conducted earlier this year. Also in June, Khalifa announced that an independent commission will investigate human rights violations [JURIST report] related to the country's pro-democracy protests. Earlier that month, the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights announced that Bahrain agreed to permit a UN commission [JURIST report] to investigate human rights violations related to protests. The National Safety Courts, special military tribunals, were instituted in mid-March under Khalifa's three-month state of emergency [JURIST report] and have been internationally criticized, most recently [JURIST report] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. The court sentenced nine citizens [JURIST report] to 20 years in prison for kidnapping a police officer in May. In April, the court handed the death sentence to four protesters, a rarity in Bahrain, and upheld the sentences [JURIST reports] for two of the men who were accused of murdering police officers. All of the charges levied in the National Safety Court have been disputed by Bahraini citizens and international rights organizations.