Profiles in Persecution: Khalil al-Halwachi

Khalil al-Halwachi is a 57-year-old Bahraini scholar, former political activist held in the kingdom’s Jau Prison. He was convicted in an unfair, politically motivated trial and has been subjected to ill treatment, including denial of medical care, by detaining authorities.

In the early morning of 3 September 2014, a large number of officers, some in uniform and some in plainclothes, raided Khalil’s house and arrested him without a warrant. The officers took Khalil to the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) where they blindfolded and handcuffed him. They then forced him to stand, prevented him from using the toilet, and prohibited him from praying. They also did not allow Khalil to sleep and locked him in a narrow cell with low temperatures.

The officers claim they arrested Khalil because they found a hidden weapon at his house during the search. They also ultimately charged him with assisting in bombings. Khalil denies all the accusations and states that the police brought the weapon to his house and planted it in order to justify his detention. Further, Khalil believes his arrest came in reprisal for his position as a founding member of the Islamic Action Society (AMAL), a legally registered opposition group that was dissolved by the government amid mass arrests of its leadership in 2012. During Khalil’s interrogation, most of the questions focused on his involvement in AMAL, and he was forced to sign a confession confirming all the charges against him. The officers threatened that if he refused to do so, they would bring him back to the CID to torture him again.

While awaiting trial, Khalil was detained at Dry Dock Detention Center, where his requests for medical treatment were rejected multiple times. Khalil repeatedly complained that he experienced numbness in his left arm due to a blood clot, which he had experienced before. However, the authorities took no action to address this request.

On 23 March 2017 – more than two years after his arrest– Khalil was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for charges stemming from the weapon he claims was planted by the officers. He was transferred to Jau Prison, where he has been subjected to poor conditions and ill treatment. Khalil has reported that inmates have found insects, stones, and coins in their food. He has also stated that the guards brought empty Clorox bottles for inmates to use for drinking water. ADHRB has received multiple reports from other prisoners corroborating this statement.

In Jau Prison, Khalil’s health has deteriorated, and he requires urgent medical attention. However, when Khalil reported trouble breathing and requested access to the prison clinic, the authorities rejected this request. Khalil also received inadequate medical treatment when he continued to experience symptoms of a possible blood clot. The prison administration only permitted him to visit the prison clinic instead of a specialized doctor as requested. Additionally, even after almost a full year since his arrival in Jau Prison, Khalil has not received aspirin to prevent blood clots, despite this being recommended by his doctors.

In 2014, during Khalil’s initial trial, the Court postponed the proceedings more than 20 times over his two-and-a-half-year detention. He is currently appealing and the Appeals Court has repeated this pattern, with continuous delays prolonging the proceedings. He has reported that prison officers transport him to the court for his hearings, but held him on the bus and do not permit him to attend, citing a lack of security personnel. They hold him on the bus from morning until the afternoon, without the use of bathroom facilities during this time. His appeal hearing on 8 March 2018 was adjourned until 2 April, then postponed again until 19 April, due to Khalil’s absence from the court session. However, his daughter reported that the authorities again transported him to the court but held him on the bus, preventing his presence at the appeal.

Khalil’s daughter, Fatima al-Halwachi is the Deputy Chairman of the European-Bahrain Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR), and she has also faced reprisal for her work. A vocal advocate for her father’s case and for others targeted for abuse in Bahrain, Fatima is consistently banned from leaving Bahrain and has been specifically barred from attending United Nations events.

Bahrain’s actions against Khalil violate its international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 9 and 14), the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 12), and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Bahrain is a party to each of these treaties. ADHRB calls upon Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations by releasing Khalil immediately and ensuring that any new trial is consistent with due process and fair trial rights. Further, we urge the government to cease all acts of reprisal against political and human rights activists and to hold officials accountable for crimes of torture and other abuses. Lastly, we also urge the authorities to provide sufficient medical care to Khalil and other all other detainees, and to maintain adequate living conditions in the country’s detention facilities, like Jau Prison.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on 3 April 2018, to include information on Khalil’s appeal being postponed.