© 2011 Human Rights Watch

(New York) – The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, in its recommendation to review convictions of people for exercising their basic rights, intended that the government should free them and void their convictions, Human Rights Watch said today.

Sir Nigel Rodley, one of the commissioners and a former UN special rapporteur on torture, told Human Rights Watch that the commissioners, in calling on authorities to review convictions and commute sentences of persons charged for attempting to exercise their basic political rights, intended that they be released and their criminal records expunged of these charges.

“I can confirm that our collective understanding was that the purpose of the review would be to exonerate from criminal responsibility those who have acted peacefully in the pursuit of the internationally recognized rights of freedom of expression and assembly,” Rodley said in a statement to Human Rights Watch. “In the absence of any prior criminal charges, or any other charges, such persons should be released from all criminal responsibility and their records expunged.”

Human Rights Watch has called on Bahrain to immediately release hundreds of people wrongfully convicted and void all verdicts against persons convicted of speech-related offenses, including leading opposition activists like Ibrahim Sharif, Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, and Abdul Wahhab Hussein.