Profiles in Persecution: Osama Nezar AlSagheer

Osama Nezar AlSagheer is a 20-year-old Bahraini student who was most recently arrested in 2017 during the suppression of peaceful protests in Duraz, which concerned the denaturalization of Shia religious figure Sheikh Isa Qassim. The sit-in around Sheikh Isa Qassim’s home in Duraz began on 20 June 2016, and the Bahraini authorities’ violent dispersion of protestors in May 2017 resulted in the death of five people, the injury of more than 100 people, and the arrest of 286 people. Osama was among those arrested, and has since been forcibly disappeared, tortured, denied medical care, and stripped of his nationality.

Osama has previously participated in demonstrations and has been arrested on multiple occasions as a result of exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly. He was first arrested in February 2013, when he was only 14 years old, and was detained for 11 days. He was arrested during a demonstration again in December 2014 and beaten. His most recent arrest in May 2017 was also connected to demonstrations and peaceful protest.

On 23 May 2017, riot police (Special Security Force Command officers) and officers in plain clothing arrested and beat Osama, before transporting him to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and forcibly disappearing him for 45 days. After detaining Osama for 20 days, officers took him to the Office of Public Prosecution without providing him with adequate time or resources to prepare. Authorities charged Osama with multiple crimes, including attempted murder of a policeman.

During Osama’s detention in the CID, officers beat him repeatedly on the head and on his hand, both of which had been injured by shotgun pellets during his arrest, in order to obtain a confession. They also forced Osama to insult his Shia beliefs, imitate animal noises as a form of degradation, and utter obscenities. Officers also allegedly forcibly disappeared Osama until visible injuries had subsided, in order to hide evidence of torture.

As a result of the torture, Osama suffers from chronic headaches and has lost mobility in his right ring finger. When transferred to the prison clinic on four different occasions, he did not receive effective treatment. Though he was examined once in hospital, he was still denied treatment, despite having shrapnel scattered throughout his body, causing severe pain. After submitting a complaint to the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman, Osama went a further 19 months without receiving medical treatment, but was forced to sign a form saying he had received treatment.

The court convicted and sentenced him to more than 51 years in prison for the multiple arrests and crimes he was charged with and stripped him of his nationality twice. Throughout these trials, Osama was denied access to his attorney, and reported that he was not able to prepare for trial or present evidence in his defense. Osama is currently appealing the various convictions against him. He currently remains in New Dry Dock, the section of Jau Prison reserved for individuals under 21.

As Osama was denied adequate time and facilities to prepare for trial, Bahrain’s actions against Osama violate its obligations under international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Bahraini authorities also subjected Osama to torture and denied him healthcare, violating both the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The Bahraini authorities have additionally failed to meet the standards for conditions of detention in violation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules). Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls upon Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations by retrying Osama’s case and ensuring that any subsequent trial is consistent with due process and fair trial rights. We additionally urge the Bahraini authorities to investigate claims of torture and denial of medical treatment and to hold those officials accountable.