On 27 July 2019, the Bahraini government executed Ali AlArab and Ahmed AlMalali, two torture victims who were convicted in an unfair trial. The executions took place amid an international outcry against the measure. Members of Congress, including Senator Bob Menendez, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission co-chairs, and Representative Ro Khanna, as well Members of the European Parliament, French Parliament, and Agnes Callamard, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions voiced their opposition to AlArab and AlMalalil’s sentences. In response to the calls to halt their executions, the Bahraini Embassy in Washington, DC published a statement defending the right of the Bahraini government to carry out these executions. In the statement, Bahrain claimed that the imposition of the death penalty adheres to United Nations (UN) standards. Hours later, Bahrain carried out the executions. ADHRB condemns these executions, particularly the misapplication of international law and UN standards to the Government’s actions.
The Embassy’s statement claims that the men were “given a fair trial” which was “conducted in accordance with the laws of the Kingdom of Bahrain, which maintain international standards.” However, the men consistently and repeatedly reported violations of domestic and international law throughout their arrest, detention, and trial. ADHRB has confirmed their statements against official medical reports and court documents. In particular, AlArab and AlMalali alleged that they were tortured to produce confessions to the crimes they were charged with, that they were prevented from meeting with their attorneys, and that they were not permitted to attend all sessions of trial. Contrary to the statement made by the Embassy, these actions are in violation of domestic Bahraini provisions as well as Bahrain’s international legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Article 19 of Bahrain’s Constitution provides that “[n]o person shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, or inducement, or undignified treatment, and the penalty for doing so shall be specified by law. Any statement or confession proved to have been made under torture, inducement, or such treatment or the threat thereof, shall be null and void.” The use of confessions obtained through torture is also in violation of Article 15 of the CAT. Despite these laws, and although AlArab and AlMalali notified the court that their confessions had been coerced through torture, government prosecutors entered their confessions against them at trial.
Additionally, Article 208 of the Bahraini Penal Code provides “[a] prison sentence shall be the penalty for every civil servant or officer entrusted with a public service who uses torture, force or threat, either personally or through a third party, against an accused person, witness or expert to force him to admit having committed a crime or give statements or information in respect thereof.” Torture is also prohibited under the CAT and the ICCPR, and the CAT includes additional obligations to prevent and punish acts of torture. Despite being a party to both the CAT and the ICCPR, and the CAT’s further provisions regarding torture, the Bahraini authorities have not held any officials accountable for AlArab or AlMalali’s torture.
The Embassy statement further claims that “[t]he trial was conducted with all components of Article 14 of the [ICCPR], including the provision of legal assistance at all stages.” However, the ICCPR provides for a number of fair trial rights, including the right to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense with the assistance of legal counsel, the right to be tried in one’s own presence, and the right to not be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt. In AlArab and AlMalali’s cases, neither men were able to meet with legal counsel until late in the trial proceedings, nor were they otherwise able to prepare a defense. Both men reported that they could not attend multiple sessions of the court proceedings and AlMalali was not even present at the final hearing during which he was convicted. Additionally, the men were convicted in a mass trial of 60 individuals, which impeded the Court’s ability to reach a fair assessment of individual guilt in AlArab and AlMalali’s cases. Furthermore, the Human Rights Committee has interpreted the use of coerced confessions to convict individuals as a violation of Article 14 of the ICCPR. It is also a violation of the CAT.
“The Bahraini authorities have shown that they have no respect for human rights or the rule of law. They have warped and misinterpreted international law to suit themselves. Such a practice makes a mockery of human rights standards. As a new Member of the Human Rights Council, they should be held to account,” says Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “Further, the timing of these executions, just two days after the US announced that it was going to implement the death penalty in federal cases – and the explicit reference to this in the Embassy’s statement – cannot go unaddressed. We have seen MPs from France, the European Parliament, Members of Congress here, and the UN addressing these cases, but nothing from the Trump Administration. The silence of the United States in this matter is deafening, and reads as tacit approval.”
ADHRB rejects the statements made by the Bahraini Embassy in its statement, and reiterates its condemnation of the executions of Ali AlArab and Ahmed AlMalali. We particularly reject the Embassy’s assertions that the actions of the Government of Bahrain are consistent with international legal principles for fair trial rights. We call on the Government of Bahrain to halt any pending executions, to provide for re-trial of those individuals convicted in unfair trials, to open official and transparent investigations into the allegations of torture made by Ali AlArab and Ahmed AlMalali with a view to holding the perpetrators accountable, and to provide compensation to the families of AlArab and AlMalali.