Profiles in Persecution: Ali Mohamed AlShowaikh

Ali Mohamed AlShowaikh is a 28-year-old Bahraini citizen. Bahraini authorities arrested him on 20 October 2018 without a warrant, tortured him, and subjected him to an unfair trial. He is currently incarcerated in Jau Prison, where he has been subjected to consistent ill-treatment. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) recently submitted a report on his case to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee for the Netherlands’ review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which can be read here.

In early 2017, Ali learned that the Bahraini authorities sought to arrest him, which he believed to be in retaliation for his brother Fayyad’s activism abroad in Germany, and he fled Bahrain on 9 February 2017. Ali traveled to the Netherlands, where he sought permission to stay as a refugee. The Dutch authorities, however, denied Ali’s request since they claimed that he could not prove he would be subject to persecution in Bahrain. The Dutch government also denied Ali’s subsequent request to be allowed to seek asylum in another state, and instead forcibly returned him to Bahrain on 20 October 2018.

Upon his arrival at Bahrain International Airport, the airport’s security forces arrested Ali and had him transferred to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), where Bahraini authorities disappeared and interrogated him for 11 days. At the CID, the authorities beat Ali and tortured him psychologically and sexually to coerce a confession out of him, which he ultimately made. The authorities then transferred Ali to Dry Dock Detention Center, where they detained him for ten weeks without access to a lawyer.

While the authorities detained Ali at Dry Dock, his lawyer contacted the Office of Public Prosecution (OPP) for any developments about his case, but they refused to give him any information. On 27 December 2018, Ali was brought before the OPP with his lawyer in attendance, but the authorities did not permit them to meet in private or to review any documents together.

The authorities then charged Ali with harboring terrorists, possessing firearms, and hiding fugitives. Ali was put on trial, and his coerced confession was used as evidence against him. The court convicted Ali on 28 February 2019, stripping him of his nationality and sentencing him to life imprisonment and a 500 dinar fine. Ali had his citizenship restored, however, on 20 April 2019 by royal order. On 1 July 2019, the Court of Appeals confirmed his conviction. He is currently pursuing an appeal before the Court of Cassation.

After the trial court convicted Ali, he was transferred to Jau Prison, where he remains. At Jau, the prison administration has denied Ali medical care and detained him in an overcrowded cell without room to sleep. The prison guards also only allow Ali an hour out of his cell each day, and he reports that they monitor his calls and conversations when his family visits him.

On 25 July 2019, the Human Rights Committee published its concluding observations on its review of the Netherlands’ ICCPR obligations, in which the Committee seems to reference Ali’s case: “The Committee is, however, concerned about reports of forced returns of asylum seekers, whose application has been rejected, to . . . Bahrain, allegedly in breach of the principle of non-refoulement.” The Committee also noted that the Netherlands should “[e]nsure that the non-refoulement principle is secured in law and strictly adhered to in practice in all circumstances” and “[e]nsure that investigations are carried out into the cases of breach of the principle of non-refoulement.”

The Netherlands’ decision to return Ali to Bahrain, despite being aware of the human rights situation in the kingdom, exhibited disregard for Ali’s human rights, such as his right to freedom from torture and his right to a fair trial. The Dutch government’s refusal to either grant Ali refuge or permit him to seek it elsewhere in favor of forcibly returning him to Bahrain also violates the international legal principle of non-refoulement. This principle is enshrined in the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), both of which the Netherlands has acceded to.

Bahrain’s actions against Ali also violate international law, including the ICCPR and the CAT, both of which Bahrain has acceded to as well. In addition, Bahrain has contravened principles of international law laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). By subjecting Ali to torture, Bahrain has violated his right to freedom from torture per the ICCPR, CAT, and UDHR. Further, by denying him adequate legal counsel and using his coerced confession against him, Bahrain has violated Ali’s rights to a fair trial, as enshrined in the ICCPR and UDHR.

ADHRB calls upon Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations by annulling Ali’s conviction, releasing him from arbitrary detention in accordance with international law, and, if serious criminal charges can be maintained against him, ensuring any subsequent trial is consistent with due process and fair trial rights.  We further call on the authorities to investigate his allegations of ill-treatment and torture, with a view towards holding the perpetrators accountable.