Suppressing Dissent and Sustaining Impunity – Torture in Bahrain 2015-2016

Torture report

In light of Bahrain’s upcoming review by the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has produced a shadow report demonstrating Bahrain’s continued use of torture. BCHR has documented and reported allegations of torture in the past year, and strongly condemns the alleged use of torture by the Bahraini government.

Read the report in full here.

The report highlights the cases of individuals including Hasan Jassim Hasan Al-Hayky, who died in custody on 31 July 2016, from, according to his family, injuries sustained during torture at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) where he was held following his arrest on charges related to his alleged involvement in a bombing on 30 June 2016.

The BCHR has documented cases of impunity in the case of Hasan Majeed Al-Shaikh, who was charged on drug related offences, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Al-Shaikh died whilst in custody amid allegations of torture. Prisoners have also been denied access to adequate and timely medical treatment, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Ali Al-Moaaily, and Jaffar Ali Oun, have all been denied access to medical care, and are being detained in unsanitary conditions. Al-Khawaja, is currently suffering from vision loss during daylight time, and at risk of potentially severe neural complications. In August 2016 Oun’s family reported that he had been suffering from a significant and growing swelling on his head. The swelling had been present for some time when it was reported, he was eventually taken for surgery after repeated requests.

Ali Mohamed Ali Al-Arab, was arrested on 2 February 2017, his family were unaware of his arrest until 9 February 2017. In March 2017 BCHR received information that witnesses reported seeing Ali arrive in Jau prison in a terrible physical condition, and that all of his toenails had been removed. The report also highlights the alleged use of coerced confessions during the trial process. Ali Al-Singace (21), Sami Mushaima (42), and Abbas Al-Samea (27), were executed on 15 January 2017, following allegations of torture and unfair trials. BCHR documented allegations of torture made by Al-Samea and Mushaima throughout the trial process.

The national laws of Bahrain, including both its constitution and penal code, expressly prohibit torture, in accordance with the international treaties to which it has acceded.

Article 19(d) of Bahrain’s Constitution states: “No person shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, or inducement, or undignified treatment, and the penalty for so doing shall be specified by law. Any statement or confession proved to have been made under torture, inducement, or such treatment, or the threat thereof, shall be null and void.”

The Bahrain Penal Code (1976), amended in 2013, sets out sanctions for the use of torture. Article 208 states: “[a] prison sentence shall be the penalty for every civil servant or officer entrusted with public service who causes severe pain or sufferings, physically or morally, either personally or through a third party, to a prisoner, or a detainee to get from him information or confessions or to penalize him for something he has committed or he is accused of having committed. The same sanction is applied for the intimidation or coercion. A prison sentence shall be the penalty for every civil servant or officer entrusted with a public service who threatens, either personally or through a third party with his full consent, a prisoner or a detainee for any of the causes cited in the first paragraph. The penalty shall be life imprisonment should the use of torture or force lead to death.”

Furthermore, Article 232 of the Penal Code engages these same sanctions, and applies it to any other persons.

Bahrain has acceded to the UN Convention Against Torture (UN-CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). All three of these treaties make provisions that expressly forbid the use of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. 

Article 1 of the UN-CAT defines torture as: “…any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

Following the ratification of the Arab Charter on Human Rights in 2006, Bahrain brought its provisions into effect in 2008. The charter expressly prohibits torture under Article 8, whilst Article 8(2) creates an obligation for states to ensure that torture is prohibited in national law, and guarantees compensation, and rehabilitation, for victims.

In spite of these protections against torture, the development of national mechanisms for the prevention of torture, and for the prosecution of individuals alleged to be utilizing torture, BCHR has documented cases of alleged torture that demonstrate Bahrain systematically utilizes torture during interrogation, and detention. Reports received by BCHR suggest that children, disabled persons, women, and human rights defenders are allegedly being subjected to acts of torture. It has also been reported internationally that three men executed on 15 January 2017 were allegedly subjected to torture, and subsequently unfair trials. Whilst the escalating crackdown on civil society in the past year, and the end of a moratorium on the death penalty in January 2017, demonstrates that Bahrain needs to be pressed to implement effective reforms, and work to end the culture of impunity within its security forces.

Read the report in full here.


The Bahrain Center for Human Rights recommends that the Committee Against Torture:

  • Urges Bahrain to guarantee that all physicians and medical staff dealing with imprisoned persons duly document all signs and allegations of torture or ill-treatment and transfer responsibility for all types of healthcare of persons deprived of liberty to the Ministry of Health in order to ensure that medical staff can operate fully independently from the security services;
  • Urges Bahrain to take prompt and effective measures to ensure that all detainees are all legal safeguards against torture and inhumane treatment;
  • Request the Bahraini authorities to ensure that all detainees are held in places officially intended for that purpose and that their next of kin and lawyers receive accurate information, without delay, about their arrest and the place where they are being held;
  • Recommend that Bahrain calls upon judges to declare as inadmissible any statements obtained under torture or other ill-treatment and to refuse to accept them as evidence in any judicial proceedings;
  • Requests that Bahrain observes its international obligations, in particular regarding arrest, detention or imprisonment of children that shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time;
  • Urges Bahrain to establish effective and independent mechanism for receiving and handling complaints of prison violence, including gender-based violence and sexual harassments; and that they should ensure the use of same-sex guards in contexts where the detainee is vulnerable to attack or harassments.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights also makes the following general recommendations:

  • Bahrain must sign the Optional Protocol against Torture;
  • Bahrain must schedule an urgent visit from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, unusual, or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • Bahrain should be pushed to take all effective legislative, administrative, and judicial measures to prevent acts of torture, and should establish new, and demonstrably independent accountability mechanisms empowered to conduct investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners;
  • Bahrain should be pushed to explain the reasons behind the clemency shown to security officers involved in ill-treatment, torture, and death, and to take measures to end the culture of impunity;
  • Bahrain should be encouraged to explain in detail the current judicial procedure taken when allegations of torture are made in court before the Public Prosecutor’s Office prior to a court session.