Profiles in Persecution: Sami Ahmed Meftah

Sami Ahmed Meftah

Sami Ahmed Meftah is a 38-year-old Bahraini citizen who was subjected to torture and psychological abuse while in the custody of Bahraini security forces. According to local testimony gathered by ADHRB, on 7 April 2011 Bahraini security forces – reportedly accompanied by Saudi personnel – seized Sami during a home raid. (This occurred during the Saudi-led Peninsula Shield Force intervention, which helped the Bahraini government suppress the pro-democracy uprising during the Arab Spring. Involvement of Saudi forces in detentions has been sporadically reported, though the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) was not able to confirm their direct participation.)

The security forces transferred Sami to the Criminal Investigations Directorate, whose officers interrogated him under torture. Though Sami maintained his innocence of any crime, he was severely beaten, threatened with sexual abuse, electrocuted, and struck repeatedly on the soles of his feet (a torture technique known as falaqah) until he signed a prepared “confession,” which he was never allowed to read. Once the documents were signed, Sami was transferred and held at the Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard (ASRY) detention center.

Signing the interrogators’ documents brought little relief from abuse. At ASRY, the guards continued to subject Sami to physical and psychological forms of torture. They denied him any visitors, deprived him of food and sleep, and forced him to act like various animals while mocking his Shia faith. After several weeks he was transferred to Dry Dock Detention Center and remained there for months pending conclusion of his trial.

On 25 September 2011, the National Safety Courts – a system of military tribunals established during the State of National Safety that was declared by the king during the unrest –  sentenced Sami to 15 years in prison for his alleged role in violence during the Arab Spring uprising. The National Safety Courts ran summary proceedings, and multiple problems with their legal operation were noted by the BICI. Bahrain responded by nominally retrying many of these detainees in its regular court system, which is similarly marred by a lack of judicial independence and failure to uphold due process. The results scarcely differed: in Sami’s case, as in many others, the verdict was upheld in the civilian criminal court on appeal.

The mistreatment and sentencing of Sami Meftah were in violation of his fundamental human rights. The detaining forces never offered a warrant to search the home or arrest anyone in it. Sami’s “confession” should have been inadmissible in court, because it was inhumanely coerced and its contents were prepared without his knowledge. The resultant trial failed to redress any of these abuses and was thus a miscarriage of justice. In Sami’s case, as in others, the Bahraini government did not fulfill its obligations under the international treaties prohibiting torture and arbitrary detention to which it is party. In light of this record, ADHRB calls for Sami’s release with redress for past suffering and, if serious criminal charges can be sustained against him, for a fair trial conducted under universally agreed juridical standards and open to international monitoring and evaluation.