NGOs Express Concern for Arbitrary Detention of Outstanding Student

20 July 2015 – Geneva, Switzerland – Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD) are concerned with the arbitrary detention of 18-year-old student Mustafa Mohammed Ali in Bahrain. We are also concerned by reports that Mustafa’s arbitrary conviction will prevent him from receiving his certificate of good conduct from school, a requirement for Mustafa to access higher education in Bahrain.

Mustafa is the son of Mohamed Ali Ismail, a member the prominent group of Bahraini political prisoners known as the ‘Bahrain 13’. We are concerned that Mustafa’s detention may be directly related to the ongoing persecution of his family, who have suffered ongoing government intimidation since 2011.

In August 2013, security forces arrested Mustafa and interrogated him at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID). At the CID, authorities threatened Mustafa with physical torture if he did not agree to sign a forced confession. Because of these threats, Mustafa signed the confession and was charged with illegal gathering and criminal assault of police personnel at just 17 years of age.

After obtaining the forced confession, the government immediately transferred Mustafa to Dry Dock Prison, where he served three weeks in pre-trial detention until he was released on bail. A Bahraini criminal court convicted Mustafa of his charges and sentenced him to six months in prison; an appellate court later upheld Mustafa’s conviction, but reduced the sentence to three months imprisonment. Both courts relied substantially upon Mustafa’s forced confession in securing his conviction and sentence.

On 10 July 2015, Mustafa turned himself into Sitra police station, whereupon the government immediately transferred him to the facility for minors at Dry Dock Prison. Mustafa has been detained since, and is currently being denied clean clothes and access to money with which to purchase food.

Mustafa completed his secondary school studies and graduated with honors, obtaining an outstanding 98.7% mark in his science courses. He intends on attending medical school and pursuing a career as a doctor. However, his arbitrary criminal conviction may interfere with his plans for higher education, as Bahraini universities require that students submit certificates of good conduct in order to obtain admission.

“Mustafa should be preparing for his life at university,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB, “Instead, the government is punishing him for being the son of a political prisoner. Bahrain’s allies must reject this attack on Mustafa, as well as the greater attack upon his generation.”

Mustafa’s conviction stands in direct violation of Article 14(3)(g) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides that ‘in the determination of any criminal charge,’ a defendant should be guaranteed the right ‘not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.’ It is also in violation of Article 13(c) of the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which states that ‘higher education shall be made equally accessible to all…’

Since 2011, many students and children have been detained on arbitrary charges related to their free expression or assembly. Families of prominent activists, human rights defenders, and opposition leaders have also been systematically targeted by the government.

“Bahrain has not imprisoned a criminal, it has imprisoned its future,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD, “Today’s generation of Bahrainis are being deprived of an education, and in the long term it is everyone in Bahrain who will suffer for it.”

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain and the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy condemn the arbitrary conviction and detention of Mustafa Mohammed Ali and call on the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately release and drop all charges against Mustafa Mohammed Ali, and all other students or individuals arbitrarily detained or convicted;
  • Urgently grant Mustafa Mohammed Ali the documentation required for him to pursue his studies at University level;
  • Remove all restrictions on current and former detainees’ access to education and other social, economic and cultural rights;
  • Take urgent and effective measures to reform the judicial system towards compliance with international standards and minimum guarantees for those convicted, as outlined in Article 14(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

On the United Nations and its Member States to:

  • Publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to unconditionally release and drop all charges against Mustafa Mohammed Ali;
  • Adopt a resolution on Bahrain in the United Nations Human Rights Council, urging the Government to take urgent steps towards reforms in line with recommendations by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and Second Cycle UPR Recommendations