Bahrain: A torturer’s paradise

Rights group recounts cases of torture in Bahrain.
Rights group recounts cases of torture in Bahrain.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights says the small island state in the Persian Gulf has turned into an oasis of torture following a popular uprising against the Saudi-backed Manama regime over two years ago.

On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern about the ongoing systematic torture in Bahrain with full impunity for the violators. Over the past year, the BCHR has documented dozens of torture cases, inside and outside formal detention centers, from the moment of arrest and at times even after receiving a sentence. Torture in Bahrain usually occurs in the dark, during times of enforced disappearance; and due to impunity officers even videotape their victims after. Not only has no official been held accountable for torture, on the contrary, some of the violators were promoted.

In April 2013, the Government of Bahrain effectively cancelled the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Juan E. Méndez, which was schedule to take place from 8 to 15 May 2013. In an official statement, Mr. Méndez stated:

“This is the second time that my visit has been postponed, at very short notice. It is effectively a cancellation as no alternative dates were proposed nor is there a future road map to discuss.”

“The culture of impunity, and the main reason why systematic torture continues in Bahrain, extends far beyond the pro-democracy movement in 2011; the best example being Decree 56 which was issued by Hamad bin Isa Alkhalifa in 2002 granting those responsible of crimes of torture in the 90’s full amnesty. The lack of accountability locally and internationally fosters the continuation of such violations; impunity must end immediately; starting with high officials in the Government of Bahrain” – Maryam Al-Khawaja, Acting President of BCHR

It is important to note here that the cases presented are only a sample of the many cases received by the BCHR. Due to the culture of impunity many victims of torture fear retribution after speaking about their ordeal.

In addition, this report covers cases of ongoing torture. It is important to note that victims of torture have not been able to receive rehabilitation; and those who are still detained are also denied adequate medical care.

Torture during time of arrest

On 24 May 2013, Redha Abdullah Isa Al-Ghasra (25 years old) was brutally arrested after civilian cars surrounded his motorcycle. Activists and tweeps (users on Twitter) broadcasted on their twitter accounts a sound recording of someone screaming in pain, which they claimed was a voice recording of the detainee Redha Al-Ghasra while security forces were reportedly beating and torturing him on the street. Pro-government twitter accounts published photographs of Al-Ghasra while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground, with blood on his face.

Faisal Mansour Eid Nasser (28 years old) was arrested on 9 March 2013. He was reportedly beaten by approximately 15 security officers, punching and kicking, while he was being transported from his home to the interrogation center. He was verbally abused using vulgar language, and he was threatened with rape, as well as threats to rape his mother and sisters. This was while he was being interrogated to disclose the hiding place of a number of people who are wanted.

Torture in Detention for Confessions

During his time at the Criminal Investigations Department, Faisal Mansour was blindfolded for the entire period and he was forced to stand for long periods of time during which he was not allowed to sit down at all. To add to that, he was also deprived from sleep for approximately four nights.

Furthermore, in order to force him to confess to the charges brought against him – despite his denial – he was handcuffed from behind, then kicked with boots and beaten with hands and an object, believed to be a plastic stick, on different parts of his body. He was verbally abused using vulgar language and his religious beliefs were cursed. He was also subjected to sexual assault by unknown officers; one of the interrogators reportedly pulled down Faisal’s pants and sexually molested him by pulling his genitals; telling him to confess to the charges against him and testify that others accused participated with him, otherwise he will be subjected to rape.
One of the investigators reportedly told Faisal: "I'm going to put your name on every case, even if you did not participate in it". Faisal Mansour, while blindfolded, was forced to sign a statement without knowing its content.

Faisal told the BCHR that during his detention at the Dry Dock prison, he was taken from his cell on 25 April 2013 to the Criminal Investigation Department again to interrogate him in a new case. He was forced to sign a ready-made statement which he was not allowed to read, under the threats of rape and beatings. 

Hussein Ramadan Mohamed Shaaban (34 years old) was arrested on 23 April 2013. He was reportedly threatened that his wife would be raped at the time of his arrest if he refused to cooperate with them. He was held for 6 days at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) where he was reportedly forced to stand for the entire period without sitting at all; during which he was blindfolded. In addition, he was deprived from sleep for the whole period of his detention at the CID, and he was handcuffed from behind for long periods which caused him pain in his shoulder and back; which he still suffers from. He was reportedly threatened with rape if he refused to sign the confessions and he was subjected to continuous verbal harassment.

The Implication of the Public Prosecution

At the public prosecution, Faisal Mansour reported that the prosecutor screamed at him, threatening that if he did not confess to the charges against him he will be taken back to the Criminal Investigations Department and exposed to more beatings; reportedly adding: “I'm going to beat you while you're here”.

Hussein Ramadan stated that the prosecutor who interrogated him at the public prosecution insulted him, and used vulgar language about his mother, after which he threatened Ramadan that if he changed his statement and did not confess to the charges brought against him he will be taken back to the CID where he will receive more beatings.

It is worth mentioning that Faisal Mansour and Hussein Ramadan, while still on trial, are two of the detainees whose pictures and charges were broadcasted on Bahrain TV before they went to court. Faisal was charged with possession of weapons and storing them for use in a murder plot, while Hussein was charged with “field responsibility and material support to the coalition of Feb 14 youth cell.”

Torture in Unofficial Torture Centers

On 21 Jun 2013 several young men were arrested by security forces Jidhafs and taken to the old-site of the Sanabis Youth Hostel (which has been documented as an unofficial torture center), where they were reportedly insulted, severely beaten and forced to insult opposition political leaders. They were kicked with shoes, beaten with batons and sharp tools. They were then released.

This case is one of many ongoing cases of abductions in which the victim is taken to an isolated place, tortured then released; which appears to aim at scaring others from participating in protests.

Beatings on the Streets; Videotaping Victim after Abuse

Dozens of videos continue to emerge online of security forces beating up protesters and detainees in broad daylight.

To add to that, and due to the continued culture of impunity, Bahrain witnessed recently an officer uploading a video of his own victim; whom he interrogated half naked making “confessions”. Read more details on http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6167

Torture of Children

Many cases were reported to the BCHR of children being tortured and/or ill-treated at the hands of Bahrain’s security forces inside and outside prisons. A recent torture case was the one witnessed by Nabeel Rajab, the detained President of the BCHR. Rajab witnessed children and youth being tortured by the prison guards and requested that the ICRC visit so he can testify as to what he witnessed. Jehad Sadeq and Mustafa Al Meqdad, both 16 years-old, were two of the eight children who Nabeel Rajab witnessed being tortured. After their torture, they were placed in solitary confinement for more than one week, during which their families did not hear from them. Read more details on BCHR recent report on http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6174

Torture of Women

Rayhana Abdulla Al-Mosawi (35 years) was arrested on April 20, 2013 from the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) during the Formula One race. She was accused of terrorism; and she was reportedly shown pictures of people and told to say they were involved. When she refused she was beaten by five men. She was reportedly threatened with rape repetitively. She told her family that she was blindfolded for seven hours and that her interrogators made her memorize a statement which she was later forced to sign and repeat at the public prosecution office. One of the other female detainees stated that Rayhana appeared very weak and unable to stand at the detention center when she first arrived at the women detention center.

Rayhana AlMosawi, although not yet on trial, is one of the detainees whose picture and charges were broadcast on Bahrain TV. She was charged with terrorism and planning to place a bomb at the Bahrain International Circuit during the Formula 1 Race.

Impunity for Violators

Until now, despite the hundreds of documented cases of torture, and despite confirmation presented in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), there has been no real accountability for torture. In March 2013, a court concluded that no one, out of five prosecuted security men, was responsible for the death under torture of the blogger Zakariya AlAsheeri. AlAsheeri died in custody eight days after his arrest on the 9th of April 2011. His body was delivered to his family covered with bruises caused by torture. Read more on http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5673

Out of the five deaths under torture that occurred in Bahraini prisons and were documented and reported (read more http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/3921 ) by the BICI, the court issued a conviction in only one case; two police men were given light sentences of 7 years for beating a detainee to death, and subject to appeal. http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5673

On 24 Jun 2013 a Bahraini court of appeal upheld the acquittal of a female police officer from torturing France 24 Correspondent, journalist Nazeeha Saeed, in May 2011. Having reported on pro-democracy demonstrations held at Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout in the spring of 2011 and bearing witnesses to an extra judicial killing, Saeed was called into a Bahraini police station for questioning in May 2011. There, she was blindfolded, kicked, punched, and slapped. Her hair was pulled, she was whipped with plastic tubing, had a shoe forced into her mouth and her head dunked into a toilet. An unknown, caustic liquid said to be urine was poured onto her face, she was repeatedly insulted and mentally abused and asked to make a false confession. Three independent medical reports, two of which were from Bahraini government doctors, corroborated Saeed’s account of the torture she endured while in custody.

In the case of Dr. Fatima Haji, (34 years old), an Internal Medicine and Rheumatology specialist who was a victim of torture during her 21 days of detention after getting arrested on 17 Apr 2011, she was not even able to prosecute her abuser. A case was filed against Noura Al-Khalifa, who took part in Dr. Haji's arrest and torture, but was dropped after the first hearing. Fatima was subjected to different types of torture: slapping on the face, severe beatings, beatings with a rubber hose on the feet, electrocution to the head, sleep deprivation, standing for long hours without food or water, prevention from use of toilet, hanging from wrists, threats of execution and rape, threats to kill her child.

Instead of Accountability; a Promotion!

On Jan 2013, King Hamad bin Isa AlKhalifa promoted Bassam Al-Muraj, who has been repeatedly implicated in violations of torture, to the position of General Director for Anti-Corruption, Economic and Electronic Security in the General Directorate, with a royal decree issued on Jan 28, 2013. Credible torture allegations have been documented against Al-Muraj for several years by local and international human rights organizations. In 2010, Human Rights Watch published the findings of an investigation they conducted in Bahrain, and concluded that there were many allegations that linked Al-Muraj to the systematic torture in the Bahraini prison system. (Read more on http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5628)

The two sons of the King, Khalid and Nasser bin Hamad, both of whom have torture allegations made against them, not only enjoy impunity within the borders of Bahrain; but have been free to travel to different parts of Europe without any accountability. Nasser bin Hamad was promoted to Head of the Royal Guard several months after the allegations of torture were made against him.

The BCHR calls for:

1. The immediate termination of torture as a policy to extract confessions and to spread fear between people.

2. An immediate independent investigation, which is both fair and transparent, into the allegations of torture made against dozens of security officers who have been implicated in torture and other human rights abuses.

3. Hold all those found guilty of committing, overseeing, ordering, and or aware of crimes of torture accountable in a trial according to international standards.

4 - Compensation and reparations for the victims of torture, and the initiation of a rehabilitation center for victims of torture.

5 - An end to the culture of impunity that governs the police forces, and sweeping reforms to ensure that transparency and accountability are guaranteed.

6 - To sign and ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in order to strengthen legal accountability for torturers.

 

Source: Bahrain Center for Human Rights

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