Profiles in Persecution: Habib Hasan Yusuf

Habib Hasan Yusuf is a 40-year-old Bahraini citizen. Bahraini authorities arrested him in 2017 without a warrant, tortured him in order to coerce a false confession, and subjected him to an unfair trial. He is currently imprisoned at Jau Prison.

On 6 June 2017, officers in civilian clothing ambushed and arrested Habib without a warrant while he was out buying groceries for his family in West Eker village. Habib later learned that a friend had implicated him in a criminal case and he had been wanted by the police and under surveillance prior to his arrest.

After his arrest, the authorities held Habib incommunicado and interrogated him for 25 days without a lawyer present. Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) officers initially charged Habib with concealing information about fugitives, but later brought three additional charges against him.

CID officers tortured and insulted Habib during his interrogation in the CID building. The officers beat him and forced him to stand for protracted periods of time, sometimes even up to several days. They also told Habib they would avoid releasing him at all costs, and that whenever the courts would convict him for a crime, they would charge him again with new counts so his sentences would accumulate. The torture Habib endured caused him to suffer significant weight loss and drove him to eventually make a false confession, which he attempted to retract when brought before a judge. Habib believes that the authorities tortured him in part because of his Shia faith.

14 days into his interrogation in CID custody, the Office of Public Prosecution (OPP) ordered the CID to release Habib, but the CID refused to do so, with an officer telling Habib that he would be put in prison for life. Immediately following this, he was charged with the three additional crimes.

After the interrogation period, the authorities transferred Habib to Dry Dock Detention Center where he was held in pre-trial detention. They denied Habib access to his lawyer and refused to permit him to present evidence in his own defense or to challenge evidence presented against him. The court also admitted his confession as evidence against him during the trial, despite Habib’s retraction and protests that it was made under duress.

On 19 February 2019, the court sentenced Habib to 25 years in prison and stripped him of his nationality. As of now, Habib is currently detained in Jau Prison. His nationality was later reinstated by royal order on 20 April 2019.

Bahrain’s treatment of Habib is in violation of Bahrain’s international legal obligations and international standards. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) both prohibit the arbitrary arrest and detention of individuals. Likewise, the ICCPR and UDHR establish that everyone has a right to sufficient time and resources to prepare a legal defense and to communicate with legal counsel. The ICCPR requires that individuals arrested on criminal charges must be brought promptly before a judge, while the Convention Against Torture (CAT) prohibits the use of torture in order to coerce confessions, and the ICCPR and UDHR provide that individuals are entitled to fair trials. Because Habib was arrested and detained without a warrant, denied access to his lawyer, not promptly brought before a judge, and had his confession made under torture used as evidence against him at trial, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) submits that he was subjected to an unfair trial. As such, Bahrain’s actions violate both Bahraini law and Bahrain’s legal obligations under the ICCPR, the CAT, and the UDHR.

ADHRB calls on the Bahraini authorities to annul Habib’s conviction in light of his unfair trial, and ensure that any subsequent trial would be in line with international standards and obligations. We also call on the Bahraini authorities to investigate Habib’s claims of torture, with a view to holding the responsible officers accountable.