UN chief regrets sentences on Bahrain activists

Ban calls for a national dialogue for Bahrain to address the ‘legitimate aspirations’ of all Bahrainis

United Nations: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expressing deep regret at a Bahrain court’s decision upholding the “harsh” sentences against 20 political activists and is calling for a national dialogue to address the “legitimate aspirations” of all Bahrainis.
Bahrain’s highest court on Monday upheld the 20 jail terms — including eight life sentences — for alleged plots to “overthrow” the state, that were originally handed down by a military court in June 2011.
Ban believes the only way to promote peace, stability, justice and prosperity in Bahrain is a dialogue where all communities can participate without fear or intimidation, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Tuesday.
The UN chief urged all Bahrainis to help create a peaceful atmosphere for such a dialogue to begin as soon as possible, Nesirky said.
Ban called on Bahrain’s government to follow through on its renewed commitment to judicial reform, Nesirky said.
In Geneva, UN human rights spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly said she regretted the convictions despite “conclusions of the Bahrain independent commission of inquiry and appeals by the international community concerning the judicial procedure and allegations of torture”.
“These persons are political and human rights activists and we are concerned they may have been convicted wrongly for legitimate activities,” Pouilly told a news briefing on Tuesday.
Widespread and excessive use of force, including confessions under torture, was detailed by the commission of international legal experts in November 2011, and they recommended measures to stop such practices.
— with inputs from AP and Reuters