Ahmed Isa AlMalali is a 23-year-old Bahraini who was arbitrarily detained in a violent arrest in early 2017. He has been subjected to torture on multiple occasions and was sentenced to death after an unfair trial on 31 January 2018. He remains in Jau Prison awaiting his appeal.
The Ministry of Interior’s Coast Guard arrested Ahmed at sea on 9 February 2017 during a joint operation with the Criminal Investigations Directorate, the Special Security Force Command, and the National Security Agency (NSA) – an intelligence body that was recently re-empowered despite its responsibility for torture and extrajudicial killing in 2011. The authorities presented no warrants. During the arrest, Ahmed was struck by two bullets in his hand and suffered a broken bone in his leg. Doctors did not remove the bullets until 23 days later, and they only treated the broken bone with a splint.
Though the Coast Guard claims that that they exchanged gunfire with individuals on the boat with Ahmed, killing three suspects, independent observers have reported significant inconsistencies in the government’s account of the incident. The Ministry of Interior did not release photographs of the deceased or allow for independent autopsies, and leaked images indicated that at least one body lacked live bullet wounds and appeared to show signs of torture. The burial was restricted and the authorities reportedly prevented family members of the deceased from participating, threatening those who attempted to attend. Additionally, in the days after the shooting, an Instagram account linked to a Ministry of Interior officer posted messages claiming that the deceased had been physically abused during the operation, as well as threatening to retaliate against activists for reporting on possible human rights violations associated with the operation.
Following the arrest, officers held Ahmed incommunicado for a month at the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Investigations Directorate in Manama. The officers forced Ahmed to sign a statement that he did not wish to receive visitors, a statement which Ahmed did not know the contents of at the time. Ahmed’s family was subsequently not allowed to speak to him or visit him during this period. Officers gave the family no information on Ahmed.
During this month-long period, officers subjected Ahmed to torture, including forced standing, exposure to cold, beatings (including blows to the genitals), and electric shock. This torture continued when Ahmed was transferred to Building 1 of Jau Prison on 7 March 2017. Building 1 houses individuals who have been sentenced to death, and prison officials have allowed this building to deteriorate below domestic and international detention standards. Prisoners in Building 1 live in unhygienic and cramped conditions – there is only one bed per cell, and it is only wide enough for one prisoner to sleep on his side. The prison authorities hold two prisoners in each cell, so the other prisoner is forced to sleep on the floor. At this point, Ahmed’s trial was still ongoing.
Other detainees reported that prison guards took turns torturing Ahmed, which led to a severe decline in his health. Prison guards also denied Ahmed medical treatment for these problems.
Ahmed was charged with possession of arms, training in the use of arms, and membership in a terrorist cell. Ahmed’s family hired an attorney for him, but the detaining authorities prevented Ahmed from communicating with his counsel.
On 31 January 2018, officers took Ahmed to the court building for his sentencing hearing, but forced him to stay on the bus for the duration of the proceedings. Further, Ahmed’s lawyer was not allowed to speak at the hearing, and his family was not allowed to attend. The Court sentenced Ahmed to death and stripped him of his citizenship. An appeal date has been set for 8 March 2018, however detention authorities have still not allowed Ahmed to meet with his attorney.
Following the sentencing, Ahmed was returned to Jau Prison, where he continues to suffer abuse. When Ahmed returned to the prison after the verdict from the Court, guards beat him along with two other prisoners. Bruises covered their heads and legs. Then, around 11:00pm on 11 February 2018, guards woke Ahmed and began beating him in his cell, before removing him and beating him along with another prisoner until approximately 3:45am. Guards brought Ahmed to a doctor who reported him as healthy, despite clear signs of torture. Ahmed is currently being held in a separate unit in Building 1, away from the rest of the prison population. He is not permitted to speak with other Bahrainis and is kept with foreign nationals.
Ahmed’s family filed a complaint with the Special Investigations Unit of the Public Prosecution Office on 15 February. They promised to visit Ahmed, but the family has heard nothing from them.
Bahrain’s actions against Ahmed violate international law, including the Convention Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 9 and 14), and the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (Article 12). Bahrain is a party to each of these treaties. ADHRB calls upon Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations by annulling Ahmed’s sentence and ensuring that any subsequent trial is consistent with due process and fair trial rights. We additionally urge the authorities to investigate claims of torture and ill treatment by prison officials, to hold those officials accountable, and to keep Ahmed’s family informed on the status of his complaints. ADHRB also calls on the Government of Bahrain to provide Ahmed and all other prisoners with necessary and impartial medical care.