Profiles in Persecution: Ali Isa al-Tajer

Ali Isa al-Tajer is a 33-year-old Bahraini citizen and the brother of Mohamed al-Tajer, a prominent human rights lawyer and human rights defender. Ali is currently incarcerated in Jau Prison on charges of joining a terrorist organization for the purposes of violently overthrowing the government and with training others on the use of weapons for the purposes of terrorism. Bahraini authorities held Ali in pre-trial detention for more than two years, and subjected him to numerous human rights violations during his arrest, detention, and trial. It is believed that Ali is being targeted in reprisal for his brother Mohamed’s human rights work.

On 5 November 2015, Bahraini authorities arrested and disappeared Ali after raiding his home. One hour after his arrest, Ali was able to give his family a phone call and stated that he was being held at the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). However, every time Ali’s family went to the CID to confirm his detention, the security forces denied having him in custody. The officers held Ali incommunicado for 25 days, during which time they tortured him, including by beating him all over his body. The authorities failed to provide any confirmation of his whereabouts during this 25-day period.

On 30 November 2015, after this period of incommunicado detention, the Office of Public Prosecution (OPP) called his lawyer and brother Mohamed to represent him in court. Mohamed rushed to court and arrived early, only to find that the trial had already been ongoing for quite some time. During the trial, the prosecutor verbally abused Ali and threatened to have one of his attorneys removed from court for counseling Ali that he had the right to deny the charges. After the initial hearing in 2015, Ali was held in pre-trial detention for three years, until his subsequent trial in 2018.

Mohamed and other members of the al-Tajer family filed complaints concerning Ali’s torture to a number of state human rights mechanisms, including the Office of Public Prosecution’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU), which is tasked with investigating cases of government abuse. On 29 December 2015, Bahraini authorities brought Ali to the SIU to be examined by a forensic doctor who then referred him to three different medical specialists to treat a knee injury and a prolapsed disc in his spine. Nevertheless, when the authorities took Ali before the public prosecutor the next day, the prosecutor stated that the forensic doctor had not seen any signs of torture on Ali’s body and rejected his claim.

On 15 May 2018, the Fourth High Criminal Court sentenced Ali to five years in prison and denaturalization in a mass judgment of 138 people, after being held in pre-trial detention for more than two years. He was convicted on the charge of joining a group called the Zulfiqar Brigades, which Bahrain recognizes as a terrorist organization. The charge against Ali is based on a confession given by another defendant in the same case. Ali’s appeal is set for 28 June 2018.

Bahrain’s actions against Ali violate international law, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 7, 9, and 14). Bahrain is a party to each of these treaties.

ADHRB calls upon Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations by annulling Ali’s conviction 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 officials and to hold them accountable for their actions.