Today, June 26th marks the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. It is on this day, in 1987, that the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into effect. The Convention has been ratified by 162 countries, including Bahrain, which ratified it on March 6th, 1998. This day is an opportunity to uphold the rights and support any victims of torture and those who are currently at risk.
In the case of Bahrain, although the government claims to be against the systematic torture and imprisonment of its citizens, the reality of the matter is starkly antithetical to what the law and government rhetoric is. Although there was much hope in 2011, following the popular democratic movement, that the human rights situation would improve, the situation has only deteriorated and continues to do so daily. According to a 2020 US Department of State report on Bahrain, detainees reported that numerous abuses were committed against them including beatings and psychological mistreatment, all in order to extract false confessions. So freely is it practiced, that even children under the age of 15 were subjected to these forms of abuse.
The report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) confirmed the Bahraini government’s use of systematic torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuse on detainees. In the report, 5 investigated cases were attributed to torture in state custody and the most prominent of which are:
Ali Isa Ibrahim Saqer
The death of Mr Ali on 9 April 2011 was attributed to torture at the Dry Dock Detention Centre while in the custody of the MoI at the time of his death. The death certificate states that the cause of death was hypovolemic shock resulting from several traumas. Human Rights Watch inspected Mr Saqer’s body before his funeral and reported that it showed the signs of severe physical abuse, including large bruises, cuts to his eye, lash marks across his back, blackened feet, and lacerations on his ankles and wrists.
Zakariya Rashid Hassan Al Asheri
A forensic report confirmed his death on 9 April 2011 and concluded that the deceased had large bruises on his back and thighs and smaller bruises on his face and hands. The report stated that security forces broke into al-Ashiri’s home during his arrest on April 2, and then held him at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations and Forensic Evidence, where he was “subjected to torture” from April 6 to 9. The report does not specify how the journalist was tortured or who was responsible for his mistreatment. Al-Ashiri was transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center on April 9, where he died later that day after being beaten, according to the report.
Abdulkarim Ali Ahmed Fakhrawi
On 11 April 2011, Abdulkarim Ali Ahmed Fakhrawi was pronounced dead. The death certificate states that the cause of death was injuries sustained while in the custody of the National Security Agency (NSA). The Commission concludes that the death of Mr Fakhrawi is attributed to torture while in the custody of the NSA. The report stated that, when relatives went to collect Fakhrawi’s body, it had “clear marks of torture,” and security forces threatened the journalist’s family members that they would “end up like him” if they photographed his body.
One recent case involves that of the religious cleric, Sheikh Zuhair Jasim Abbas, who was held in solitary confinement for months, subjected to beatings by guards with feet, fists, and hoses. He was also subjected to sleep deprivation and was only given water twice a day. Furthermore, he was subsequently deprived of medical care and, upon him telling his family about the torture he was subjected to, was scolded by prison guards and his call was cut off. This case is not an outlier, but the status quo of the treatment that countless Bahraini citizens get when they speak up to uphold their basic, inalienable human rights.
It is for these reasons and many more that the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls on the Bahraini Government to:
● end the human rights abuses that Bahraini law itself prohibits;
● release all political prisoners and activists;
● hold parties who are involved in torturing prisoners accountable for their crimes.