The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights condemns the practices of the Interior Ministry, including its continued practice of disappearing detainees, making them unable to contact their lawyers or families. The most recent of these violations occurred in the case of the 36-year old Bahraini national Tawfeeq Al Towk. After his arrest by regime forces, Tawfeek’s family did not hear from him for days.
Tawfeek’s family have informed BCHR that civil forces, alongside regime forces, executed a dawn raid on a house in Sitra on 2 September 2014. Tawfeek was arrested, after his car was impounded. Nothing was heard from him until his family received a brief phone-call from him on 5 September, in which he informed them that he was at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). The line was cut off immediately afterwards. To find out the charges against Tawfeek, one of his brothers went to the CID on 6 September, but was unable to get a clear answer. He then went to al-Hodh al-Jaf Prison, where he was able to make an appointment to visit his brother Tawfeek. This proved that he was being held in the prison, and was not given permission to contact his family. Tawfeek’s family attempted to visit him on the given date, 9 September, but after waiting half an hour they were told that he was not in the prison. The official in charge of visitation told them that Tawfeek had been held in cell 3, but that he had been transferred back to the Criminal Investigations Directorate. Up until 12 September, Tawfeek’s family has not received any news from him. It should also be mentioned that Tawfeek has not been able to contact a lawyer, in clear violation of Paragraph B, part 3 of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which stipulates that all those suspected of a crime have the following guarantee, given on equal terms, while their case is being considered: “to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing.”
The week beginning 1 September saw the arrest of 41 Bahraini citizens, including 2 children. Five of those arrested were later released. Among the original arrestees were 20 young men who were sought in relation to political cases, including 3 photographers from al-Duraz. Regime forces executed a wide-reaching campaign of house raids in addition to a number of chases in residential neighborhoods in various villages. This campaign resulted in the arrest of 5 youths in the al-Duraz area, just 24 hours after the arrest of 8 people in al-Muqshaa. 7 youths had previously been arrested in Muqaba. It should be mentioned here that the security services in Bahrain have handed down arbitrary sentences, including long prison terms, to thousands of young people on the basis of their peaceful activism. Others have been placed in preventive detention centres. They are held without facing trial, and face an extension of their detention for months, during which no charge has yet been submitted against them.
The families of some of those recently detained have reported that news of their relatives has been cut off for periods of over 6 days, despite receiving brief phone calls informing them that their loved ones are being held at the Headquarters of Criminal Investigations. The family of the 26-year old detainee Salman Abbas Salman reported that he and some others were arrested in al-Muqshaa at 20:00 local time on Thursday 3 September 2014. Two hours after his arrest, Salman’s family received a short phone call from him, informing them that he was at the Headquarters of Criminal Investigations. After that, they heard nothing from him until 10 September, when his family went to investigate and learned that he was being held at al-Hodh al-Jaf Prison.
The family of 21-year old detainee Hussein Hilal al-Zaki informed the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights that their son had been arrested at a house near his home in the village of Maqaba on the evening of Thursday 4 September. Hussein’s family received a phone call from him two hours after his arrest, informing them that he was being held in the Headquarters of Criminal Investigations. After that, they received no news from him until the morning of Wednesday 10 September. It should be mentioned that regime forces raided Hussein al-Zaki’s house on Saturday 6 September – they searched the property and its contents and terrifying the people inside. The raid lasted approximately an hour and a half, and security forces did not show any search warrant. Hussein’s family approached the Interior Ministry ombudsman to establish that their relative was safe, but they were not able to get a clear answer.
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights believes that these systematic practices on the part of Interior Ministry officials corroborate the allegations of human rights activists, who report an ever-increasing policy of impunity. This is leading to swelling ranks of victims, including those who are detained and stripped of their ability to defend themselves.
Based on the above, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls on the United Kingdom, the United States and all other allies of the Bahraini government to put pressure on the authorities in Bahrain to:
- Release all detainees held on account of political cases.
- Hold those responsible for violations accountable, and try them before just and unbiased courts.