Profiles in Persecution: Anonymous Victim of Torture

ADHRB recently received a handwritten letter from a victim of torture in Bahrain. Due to fear of reprisals and further abuse in prison, ADHRB has decided to conceal the victim’s identity and preserve anonymity. For this reason, some information is redacted as it could be used to identify the victim. To view the original handwritten letter in Arabic, click here. To read an English translation of the letter, click here.

The victim was subjected to an enforced disappearance of 25 days, during which time Bahraini authorities subjected him to various forms of torture, until he produced a statement of “confession” dictated by the government. He was subjected to an unfair trial, in which he was convicted and denaturalized for his alleged membership in a terrorist organization.

Plainclothes officers and riot police raided and searched the victim’s apartment and arrested him without a warrant. When asked about the reason for his arrest, officers stated that it was an investigation and routine procedure, and that he would be released. He was then led into a police vehicle where he was beaten, cursed, and insulted. He was handcuffed and blindfolded for the duration of his detention until he was transferred to Dry Dock Detention Center 25 days later. His blindfold was only removed at night when he slept; however, he remained handcuffed the entire 25 days.

On a daily basis, the victim was transferred between the CID and building 15 of Jau Prison, a building he refers to as the “academia,”[1] where he was interrogated and tortured for 25 days. Throughout the interrogation, the victim was denied access to his attorney and subjected to extreme physical and psychological torture while blindfolded and handcuffed. He was unable to identify the forces that conducted the torture due to him being blindfolded. The only detail he knows is that they were wearing plain clothing.

He was severely beaten, stripped naked, subjected to forced standing and sleep deprivation, and hung on an iron pole by his handcuffs. The beatings focused on his genitals and his head. He suffered frequent electric shocks to his genitals. He was also threatened with the arrest and rape of his mother and wife, as well as the arrest of his family members. His torturers also forced him to drink large quantities of water and forbade him from using the bathroom. They also forced him to rapidly smoke cigarettes until he became faint, prevented him from praying, and did not permit him to shower or bathe for two weeks, despite spitting and urinating on him. He was coerced to confess to all the charges alleged by the government, though he maintains that the contents of his “confession” were false, writing “[b]ecause of my fear . . . I told them that I would confess to whatever they wanted me to confess to . . . they dictated what they wanted from me and I confessed out of fear for [REDACTED], in order for them to be released.”

During one instance during the torture, the victim was hung by his handcuffs to iron bars fixed on the wall, completely naked. This method allowed only the victim’s toes to touch the floor. He was hung in that position for several hours all the while being beaten, electrically shocked, threatened and insulted. Officers would circle around him and start hitting and kicking him on different parts of his body. They hit him on the head with hard and soft objects, which caused swelling. The officers would beat him in the head until he collapsed, unconscious. At other times, one of the officers would pick him up and make him stand while beating him in the face, testicles and other parts of his body. Officers would use their hands and other objects that the victim could not identify, but knew that caused swelling. After the beatings, the officers would mock the victim, laughing at him and leaving him naked for long hours. The officers would also subject the victim to sleep deprivation that would last for two to three days at a time. He was also forbidden to sit for long periods of time and forced to stand on one foot with one arm lifted.

The victim described his torture as “the most brutal torture” and that it felt “as if my spirit [was] being torn out of my body.”

As a result of his torture, the victim suffers from problems in his urinary tract such as bloating, persistent pain, bloody urine, as well as pain in his kidneys and back. He received treatment at the Department of Urology at Salmaniya Hospital and requires follow-up appointments, which are being ignored by prison authorities. During the torture, he was administered intravenous treatment on multiple occasions at the Jau Prison clinic in an attempt to alleviate the blood in his urine. However, this treatment was not to alleviate his suffering, but rather to return him to his torturers and ensure that their brutal interrogation could continue.

In addition to his coerced false confession, the victim was also subjected to an unfair mass trial of 138 defendants. He was convicted and denaturalized, along with 114 other defendants. He and other defendants reported multiple fair trial violations, including lack of access to legal counsel, inability to prepare a proper defense, prevention from presenting exculpatory evidence, and being tried in absentia, despite being held in Bahraini custody.

Bahrain’s actions against this victim violate its international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Bahrain is a party to each of these treaties. The victim’s arbitrary arrest without a warrant or other grounds is in violation of Bahraini law and violates the right to freedom from arbitrary detention under the ICCPR (Article 9). His torture is in violation of the ICCPR (Article 7), as well as the CAT. His torture is also criminalized in Bahraini domestic law under the Bahraini Constitution (Article 19) and Criminal Code (Articles 208, 232, and 416), however there has been no apparent investigation, arrest or prosecution of these crimes since his abuse.

ADHRB strongly condemns Bahrain’s blatant disregard for the basic human rights of its citizens. We further condemn the failure of the Bahraini authorities to investigate, prosecute, and convict perpetrators of torture, leading to a culture of impunity. We call upon Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations by annulling the convictions and reinstating the nationality of the individuals convicted in this patently unfair trial.  We also call upon the Bahraini judiciary to reject all “confessions” extracted through torture, and to ensure that any subsequent trials are consistent with international standards for due process and fair trial rights. We finally urge the authorities to investigate claims of torture and ill treatment by officials and to hold those officials at all levels accountable.

[1] Later identified as the Royal Academy of Police located next to Jau Prison.