Bahrain this week started a dialogue process meant to address improvements in the political climate. The government earlier received praise for transferring some trials from a military tribunal to civilian courts.
The Sunni-led kingdom was condemned for its violent response to a Shiite uprising early this year. Human rights groups accused the government of operating torture chambers at some of its hospitals.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement issued through his office, said dialogue is vital to addressing lingering social tensions.
"As the dialogue process gets under way, he urges the government to do everything possible to ensure a genuine, all-inclusive and meaningful dialogue that will lead to tangible political, economic and social reforms which meet the legitimate aspirations of all Bahraini people," his statement read.
The official Bahrain News Agency reported the sentencing of three people to 10 years in prison for spying. The suspects were accused of conducting surveillance on staff members at the base used by the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.