Profiles in Persecution: The Kuwaid Brothers

Husain Ebrahim Kuwaid, Hasan Ebrahim Kuwaid, Khalil Ebrahim Kuwaid, Jaafar Ebrahim Kuwaid, and Mahdi Ebrahim Kuwaid are five brothers from Bahrain who have been subjected to various rights abuses, including torture to extract false confessions, denial of medical care, and convictions in unfair trials. Four of the brothers are currently being held in Jau Prison.

On 29 September 2014, Ministry of Interior officers and other security personnel raided their father’s house and arrested Husain. The post office in their village, Sitra, had been bombed, and police were conducting random raids. At approximately 3:30am, the police raided the Kuwaid house, woke Husain, and arrested him without a warrant. The officers took Husain to be interrogated, during which time they tortured him for over two weeks to extract a false confession. The officers transferred Husain to Dry Dock Detention Center, where they again tortured him. They physically beat him, subjected him to electric shock, forced standing, and sleep deprivation, and refused to permit him to go to the bathroom or to provide him with clean drinking water. They also threatened to torture an 11-year-old child in front of Husain if he did not sign a confession. On 23 November 2015, he was convicted of the attack on the post office and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He has continued to suffer torture and ill treatment in Jau Prison.

On 27 July 2015, Bahraini riot police and plainclothes officers arrested Hasan and Jaafar at their sister’s house. They were arrested without a warrant for attacking the Sitra police station, setting fire to the Sitra post office, attacking and hurting police officers, rioting, protesting, and inciting protests. During the arrest, the officers pulled Hasan from under the bed, causing him to break his leg. The officers released Jaafar, but held Hasan in solitary confinement for two weeks, beat him to the point that some of his teeth fell out, and psychologically pressured him for ten days to elicit a confession. He was tried in absentia (despite the fact that he was in police custody) and sentenced to 32 years in prison on 23 November 2015. New charges continue to be brought against him, and he is tried in absentia for those charges. Hasan remains in Jau Prison, where he is routinely denied necessary healthcare and medication.

On 16 March 2017, security officers in unmarked cars and civilian clothing stopped Khalil, Jaafar, and Mahdi. The officers drew their weapons on the brothers and made Jaafar exit the vehicle. The officers then brutally beat Jaafar in the middle of the street. Jaafar had a pre-existing ribcage injury, and begged the officers not to hit him in the chest. The officers responded to this request by kicking and beating Jaafar in the chest until he lost consciousness.

Officers then seized the youngest brother Mahdi from the car. Mahdi has a developmental disability of which Khalil informed the officers, asking them to leave Mahdi alone. The officers ignored this request and beat Mahdi in the middle of the street. Khalil attempted to defend his brother, and the officers beat him as well. The officers beat Khalil so badly that they re-opened stitches in his stomach from a previous surgery.

The officers took the brothers to the al-Hoora police station, where they handcuffed Mahdi to a chair and forced him to watch Khalil and Jaafar be beaten every ten minutes. The police also subjected Khalil and Jaafar to forced standing for two days. This torture was for the purpose of coercing confessions from the brothers, and the officers ended the torture when Mahdi and Khalil confessed to participating in rallies and carrying weapons, and testified that Jaafar attacked a police station. Khalil and Jaafar were charged with unlawful assembly, possession of Molotov cocktails, and rioting. Mahdi was charged with participating in a rally and participating in an attack on the Sitra police station.

The brothers were transferred to Dry Dock Detention Center, where Jaafar and Khalil requested medical treatment for the injuries inflicted by the officers at their arrest. Both men were denied medical care. On 16 May 2017, Khalil and Jaafar were sentenced to one year and six months in prison, and Mahdi was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison. Upon conviction, the brothers were transferred to Jau Prison. Khalil completed his sentence and was released in December 2017. Jaafar and Mahdi remain in Jau Prison.

Bahrain’s treatment of the Kuwaid brothers is in violation of a number of legal principles, including the prohibition of torture in the Convention Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition, the use of “confessions” obtained through torture to convict them is in violation of these instruments and renders their continued detention arbitrary. Further, the denial of medical care is in violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. ADHRB calls upon Bahrain to uphold their international legal obligations, to release the Kuwaid brothers and annul their convictions, and to ensure that any future trials are consistent with fair trial rights.