Profiles in Persecution: Mohamed Merza Moosa

Mohamed Merza Moosa was a prominent Bahraini athlete who won several gold medals in international competitions for Jiu-jitsu in Brazil, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) between 2008 and 2010. Like Bahraini footballer Hakeem AlAraibi, Mohamed was subjected to torture and convicted in an unfair trial following the government crackdown on peaceful protests and demonstrations in 2011. He is currently in Jau Prison, where prison authorities have denied him adequate medical care.

Mohamed was one of thousands of Bahraini individuals who joined calls for a more democratic government and human rights in Bahrain during the Arab Spring in February 2011. On 16 March 2011, police officers arrested Mohamed at a checkpoint at the intersection of the Sheikh Aziz Mosque in the Southern Sehla area without an arrest warrant. He was subjected to insults and cursing during the arrest, placed in the trunk of a police car, and transferred to four different police stations. In all of those stations, police officers threatened that they would bring in Mohamed’s wife and brothers and torture them. Mohamed was next transferred to Dry Dock Detention Center, where a group of Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) personnel and officers in plain clothing tortured him. Finally, he was transferred to Al-Qurain Military Prison, where BDF officers and officers in plain clothing again tortured him.  Mohamed was held incommunicado for three months from the day of his arrest.

In all the aforementioned police stations, and in Dry Dock Detention Center, Al-Qurain, and Jau Prison, officers deprived Mohamed of sleep, harassed and intimidated him, deprived him from bathing and going to the toilet, forced him to stand for long hours, subjected him to forced nudity and sexual assault, held him in a cold room, and poured cold water on him. In addition, they mocked him, degraded his dignity, and insulted the Shia community and religious leaders. They also compelled him to imitate the sounds of animals and forced him to chant the Bahraini national anthem. Moreover, those officers restrained his hands and feet, tying them behind his body and hanging him tied for long hours. They also beat him with electric cords and water pipes, kicked him, slapped him, and spit on his face. The military prosecutor of the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) tortured Mohamed in the Office of Public Prosecution and in the Courts’ corridors, where he was coerced to sign statements and papers that he did not know the contents of, under the threat of using weapons against him.

On 19 May 2011, the First Instance Court of National Safety convicted Mohamed and eight co-defendants on the charge of kidnapping a police officer, and sentenced them to 20 years’ imprisonment. Only one defendant was acquitted. The National Safety Courts were in place during the state of emergency following the protests, and consisted of a presiding military judge and two civilian judges. The prosecution was also administered by military officials. These Courts were later disbanded and their ruling subject to civilian review following findings by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) that stated “fundamental principles of a fair trial, including prompt and full access to legal counsel and inadmissibility of coerced testimony, were not respected. . .” in these Courts.

On 12 July 2011, Mohamed was transferred from Al-Qurain Military Prison to Jau Prison, where he remains today. On 22 July 2011, his sentence was reduced to 15 years’ imprisonment on appeal, along with his eight co-defendants. On 9 January 2012, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation overruled the appeal and referred the case back to the First High Court of Appeal to reconsider its judgment. On 14 August 2012, the First High Court of Appeal reduced his sentence to 10 years’ imprisonment; however the other eight co-defendants were acquitted. Mohamed did not have adequate time or facilities to prepare for trial and was denied access to his lawyer, and he did not appeal further to the Court of Cassation.

Currently, Mohamed suffers from degenerative disc disease, corrosion in the right knee joint, a tear in his anterior cruciate ligament, broken teeth and damage to the right side of the lower jaw due to torture. These ailments are being ignored by the prison authorities. Despite his attempts to obtain treatment by filing complaints regarding his health condition and the torture he endured with the prison authorities at Jau, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) Ombudsman, the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR), and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Committee (PRDC), he has not received the required attention or treatment. On 18 August 2018, due to the neglect of his health condition by the prison authorities, Mohamed started a 40-day hunger strike, which ended on 27 September 2018, in solidarity with fellow inmate and political prisoner Hassan Mushaima. Mohamed had no health problems before his arrest and torture.

Bahrain’s torture, ill treatment, and unfair trial of Mohamed are in violation of his fundamental human rights and Bahrain’s international and domestic legal obligations. In this case, as in others, the Bahraini government did not fulfill its obligations under the international treaties to which it is party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). By subjecting him to torture, Bahrain is in violation of the CAT and the ICCPR. The use of confessions obtained through torture, the lack of access to legal counsel, and the trial of a civilian before a military court subjected Mohamed to an unfair trial, rendering his detention arbitrary in violation of the ICCPR. The targeting of Mohamed for his political views and peaceful expression is discriminatory and further adds to the arbitrary nature of his detention. Finally, the failure to provide medical care in the prison is in violation of Mohamed’s right to health in the ICESCR and the Bahraini Constitution.

In light of this record, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls for Mohamed’s release with redress for past suffering and, if serious criminal charges can be sustained against  him,  for  a  fair  trial  conducted  under  universally  agreed  juridical  standards  and  open  to  international  monitoring  and  evaluation.  ADHRB further calls on the Bahraini authorities to investigate claims of torture and ill treatment in detention centers and to hold those responsible accountable. Finally, we call on the Jau Prison administration to ensure that Mohamed and all other prisoners receive adequate and necessary healthcare, in line with Bahrain’s international obligations.