On the occasion of June 26, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) reiterates its calls to put an end to the policy of systematic torture in Bahrain.
The BCHR has thoroughly documented systematic torture (psychological and physical) during periods of enforced disappearance, during interrogation to force confessions, during forced deportation of Bahrainis wanted by authorities, as well as inside prisons after sentences have been handed down. The documented cases show that no one is safe from torture, whether a child, a woman, or even the human rights activist who defended these people. Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR, has been arrested and detained since April 2, 2015 for speaking out regarding the bout of cruel treatment and torture which occurred in March 2015 at Jaw prison.
Since 2011, six people have lost their lives under torture, the most recent of whom was Hasan Al-Shaikh, who was beaten to death in Jau prison in November 2014.
Based on confessions extracted under torture, allegations which the Bahrain judicial system has failed to investigate, many prisoners of conscience remain in prison today, including leading human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja (read his testimony of torture).
Human rights activists have faced reprisal for documenting such violations. In this regard, on April 2, BCHR President Nabeel Rajab was arrested for posting information on Twitter concerning acts of torture and inhumane treatment at Jaw Prison. In an opinion piece that Nabeel Rajab published in the “Huffington Post” Rajab stated, “Prisoners have rights and prisons should be centers of rehabilitation. In Bahrain, inmates are punished for being inmates, and punished collectively. Torture is a crime against humanity, yet it is a constant feature in Jaw.”
On the other hand, the officials responsible for torture continue to enjoy impunity, and there has not been accountability for the crimes committed by government officials, with the few low level police who have been taken to court either being found innocent or given very short term sentences. Moreover, country officials at the highest level publicly show support for those responsible for torture as evident in a video that surfaced in which the Prime Minister told an official who was acquitted of torture charges that he was “above the law.”
Bahrain has acceded to three International Treaties that prohibit the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. These are the United Nations Convention against torture in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Bahrain also signed the Arab Charter of Human Rights. However, the Government of Bahrain has effectively cancelled the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, and has not yet proposed a rescheduled date.
“Unless Bahrain’s government sees real pressure from its allies, namely the US and UK governments, to put an end to this systematic policy of torture, it’s likely that it will continue for the coming years,” said Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafdha, the Vice President of BCHR.
Based on the above, BCHR calls on governments and on international organizations to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to carry out the following:
- Hold a fair and transparent investigation into the testimonies of torture as reported by witnesses and detainees;
- Hold accountable anyone proven to be responsible for ill-treatment or torture, including those who authorized or condoned such abuses;
- Sign the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture to strengthen accountability; and
- Reschedule the visit from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, unusual, or degrading treatment or punishment.