Since the start of the popular movement in February of 2011, the authorities in Bahrain have suppressed dissent voices by arresting them and subjecting most of them to periods of enforced disappearance that ranged from days to weeks and even months in some cases.
Asma Darwish, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights BCHR’s Head of Advocacy stated that she still remembers one of the nights of April 2011, when the cities and villages of Bahrain were under the National Safety Law at the time, after the security forces, along with the Peninsula Shield forces, suppressed the Pearl Roundabout movement. On that night, masked civil security personals raided her home without a search warrant, and arrested one of her brothers, who then disappeared for weeks without being allowed to communicate with the outside world or even with a legal representative. When the family tried to inquire about the son in various police stations and in the Criminal Investigation Directorate for a period of a week or more, all of them denied his presence in their custody. Later it was found that he was in their possession and was interrogated under pressure, ill-treatment, physical and psychological torture and without the presence of a lawyer.
Since that time, the authorities have allowed the security authorities responsible for criminal arrest to use enforced disappearance under the Law “Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts” issued by Decree No. (68) of 2006, which granted full powers to the National Security Agency to detain the accused for a period of 28 days or more without judicial permission. This law contradicts at its core with Decree Law of Criminal Procedure No. (46) for the year 2002, Article (61) which states that “no person may be arrested or imprisoned except by an order from the legally competent authorities, and he must be treated in a manner that preserves He has human dignity, and he may not be harmed physically or mentally. Whoever is arrested shall be confronted with the reasons for his arrest, and he shall have the right to contact whoever he sees of his relatives to inform them of what happened and to seek the assistance of a lawyer”.
According to the United Nations’ Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, it is defined as: “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State, or by persons or groups of individuals acting with the authorization or support of the State or with its consent, followed by a refusal to recognize the deprivation of liberty or the concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which deprives him of the protection of the law (Article 2 and preamble of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance).
Enforced disappearance is also defined by three cumulative elements:
- Deprivation of liberty against the will of the person concerned;
- The involvement of government officials, at least with tacit consent;
- Refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or to conceal the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person.
On the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, there is still concern about the local laws and legislation issued by the Bahraini legislator that violate international conventions and treaties and ignore all complaints submitted by the victims, none of which the authority has actually investigated. The focus on enforced disappearance cases comes in the context of calling for investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators and mobilizing the international community to pressure the Bahraini government to end these practices, in addition to the necessity of punishing all those involved in cases of torture, enforced disappearance and unfair trials. As the lack of accountability leads to the persistence of violations and the spread of the policy of impunity.
Enforced disappearance also has a negative serious effect that paralyzes the victim depriving him from protection of the law, and is often subject to torture and remains in constant fear for his life and even if eventually released, physical and psychological wounds remain. As a result of enforced disappearances, unfair sentences have been issued based on arbitrary arrests and confessions were extracted under torture, including handing down death sentences, some of which were carried out, and prison sentences that are often heavy arbitrary, up to life sentences as well as revoking citizenship.
In this context, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: “Impunity only compounds the cruelty of suffering and the excruciating pain. Families and societies have the right, under international human rights law, to know the truth about what happened. I call on Member States to fulfill this responsibility.”
Bahrain has not yet ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, although ratifying the Convention was among the 175 recommendations of Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of 2017, hence the need to urge the Bahrain government to:
- Joining the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
- Obligation to submit reports to the panel of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention by the States Parties.
- Considering enforced disappearance as a crime under national law, and punishing it with appropriate penalties that take into account its gravity.
- Re-trial all those who were subjected to enforced disappearance and not adopting the confessions extracted from them during the investigation period.
- Ensure that survivors and people who have lost loved ones have the right to remedy, including: compensation, rehabilitation, rehabilitation, and ensuring that disappearances do not happen again.