The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the Bahraini government’s practice of holding detainees for a prolonged and indefinite period prior to being sentenced and convicted of any official charge. This is the case with Khalil Al-Halwachi, who has been detained for approximately two years without being sentenced, thus violating his right to due process.
Khalil Al-Halwachi (59 years old) was arrested on 3 September 2014 through a house raid by security forces. The security forces presented neither a search nor an arrest warrant. Security forces transported Al-Halwachi to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), where they allegedly subjected him to psychological torture and ill-treatment including keeping him in extremely low temperatures for hours at a time and preventing him from going to the toilet. Security forces then forced him to sign confessions while he was blindfolded.
The interrogation focused on the activities of AMAL political society and its founders, although the society has been closed down since 2012 and Al-Halwachi is no longer a member of the group.
At the public prosecution, the prosecutor interrogated Al-Halwachi without his lawyer, and charged him with alleged possession of a weapon. Security forces then transferred Al-Halwachi to the Dry Dock Detention Center. The authorities extended his detention three times under the Terrorism Law. After six months, on 22 March 2015, the authorities finally referred him to court. He made complaints about the ill-treatment he was subjected to with the ombudsman’s office, which transferred the case to the special investigation unit; but there was no outcome in Al-Halwachi’s case and he remains in detention during his trial.
Since the commencement of his trial in March 2015, the court has postponed it 17 times thus far. The court postponed the trial several times due to the absence of the prosecution’s witness. When the witness finally showed up, his answer to most of the questions was “I forgot.” The defense lawyers of Al-Halwachi and 16 other defendants in the case were not allowed to call defense witnesses. The last session he had was on 21 June 2016 and it was postponed to 19 September 2016.
Although Al-Halwachi has not been sentenced, prison authorities refuse to release him despite his deteriorating health, which includes repeated blood clotting episodes for which he is reportedly not getting proper medical care. He also has nerve damage, which caused paresthesia in his limbs, and has only gotten worse with his appalling prison conditions. He is currently isolated from other political detainees in ward 1 at Dry Dock Prison, apart from four political detainees with whom he had minimal contact, as they are not allowed to communicate with him.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain acceded in 2006, requires state security forces to observe certain guidelines. Article 9 of the ICCPR states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention;” and that “anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.” Furthermore, Article 14 affirms the detainee’s right to a fair trial, as “everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”
Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls on the government of Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Khalil Al-Halwachi and all detainees who are held over politically motivated charges;
- End the practice of arbitrary arrest and detention;
- End the practice of holding detainees for a long time before they are sentenced, as it violates their right to due process;
- End the practice of torture as a means to extract confessions from detainees;
- Bring to justice those who commit violations, including those who carry out and supervise abuses; and
- Abide by international legislation, including conventions to which Bahrain is a signatory.