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Enforced Disappearance: A Persistent Violation in Bahrain

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On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, held annually on 30 August,

the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) recalls the numerous cases of those Bahraini citizens who fell victim to enforced disappearance carried out by their own government, and raise concerns about the neglect of basic human rights by Bahraini authorities.

Deriving from the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which entered into force in 2010 and has so far been signed by 96 and ratified by 52 states, this international day of commemoration was created to draw attention to all individuals taken and imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives and/or legal representatives. The day is also known as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

According to the Convention, “‘enforced disappearance’ is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”

The act of enforced disappearance directly violates many basic human rights, including the right to liberty, right to security and dignity, right to recognition before the law, right to fair trial, and the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel and inhumane treatment.

Even though Bahrain did not sign the Convention and it is thus not directly applicable to Bahrain, the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearances are preserved through three other international treaties that Bahrain has ratified: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the UN Convention against Torture (CAT).

Nevertheless, enforced disappearance is still one of the recurring strategies of the Bahraini authorities as a mean of intimidation of civil society and deterring political opponents and activists from protesting violations and demanding their rights, affecting not only the victims themselves but the community as a whole.

Victims of enforced disappearances are deprived of their liberty. Enforced disappearance occurs usually directly following an the arrest. This period of disappearance may last from a couple of hours up to several weeks. While in custody, they are deprived of their right to due process, not allowed to contact a lawyer or their families. They are frequently subjected to torture, ill-treatment and threats in order to make them sign confessions, with the consequence that victims are tried in unjust trials and subsequently sentenced to harsh and disproportionate sentences, including  the death penalty. Even if they are eventually freed, the physical and psychological scars stay with them for the rest of their lives. The victims’ families also suffer immense anguish and are subjected to emotional despair, fearing and concerned over the wellbeing of their loved ones.

Two disturbing and shocking cases of how Bahraini authorities neglect their international obligations and commitments and carry out enforced disappearances, torture and coerced confessions are the ones of Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa, who are both allegedly connected to a deadly bomb explosion, in which an officer and two policemen were killed in Al-Deir village on 14 February 2014.

A few weeks after the explosion, Mohammed Ramadan was arrested without a warrant and without informing his family of his arrest. He was detained at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation (CID), where he was subjected to sustained ill-treatment and torture for more than four days until he eventually signed a false confession stating that he was involved in the explosion in Al-Dair. Ramadan claims he was then informed that the government knew he was innocent, but that his participation in protests made him a “traitor” and therefore he supposedly deserved to be sentenced for his crimes. When Ramadan explained to a judge that he was forced to sign the false confession, he was brought to Riffa Police station for 13 days, where he was reportedly tortured once again.

Similar to Ramadan, Husain Ali Moosa was arrested and kept in custody. He claimed that CID security officials hung him from the ceiling for three days while beating him with batons. CID officers threatened to harm his relatives and fabricate cases against them, and additionally threatened to rape his sisters. In order to stop his torture, Moosa confessed to being involved in the Al-Dair bombing. Three days later, when he recanted his confession in front of the public prosecutor, he was again sent to CID and allegedly tortured for three months.

Eventually, on 29 December 2014, Bahraini courts sentenced Ramadan and Moosa to death for their alleged involvement in the bomb explosion. Despite an Urgency Resolution of the European Parliament and international appeals, highlighting the lack of due process and impartiality present during the trials, the verdict was eventually upheld by the Bahraini High Appeals Court on 31 May 2016. Ramadan has exhausted all routes of the judicial appeals process on his case. Both Ramadan and Moosa are currently awaiting execution, which solely requires authorization by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and could be carried out at any time.

These are just two cases that exemplify the worst case scenario: the death penalty. BCHR, however, continues to receive and observe similar cases from other victims of enforced disappearance. Bahrain also continuously appears in the annual reports of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) since 2011 and has been criticised in WGEID’s 108th session document for providing merely “insufficient” information regarding the clarification of the urgent cases of two men allegedly arrested by state agents in September and November 2015.

In the light of the abovementioned, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights is deeply concerned that Ramadan’s and Moosa’s prosecutions relied substantially on evidence obtained under torture and are in direct violation of Bahrain’s obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture. We therefore, exhort the international community to speak out against any form of human rights abuses, and further urge the Bahraini government to implement its commitments under international human rights law. Moreover, we call upon the government of Bahrain to:

  • Halt the application of the death penalty against Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa and vacate their sentences and to unconditionally release all political prisoners;
  • Conduct a full investigation into all credible allegations of torture, as mandated by the Convention Against Torture;
  • Implement international regulations against the use of torture as a means to extract false confessions;
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture; and
  • Sign and ratify  the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and transfer respective regulations into national law.

 

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