12 August 2019 – On the night of 26 July 2019, Bahraini photojournalist and activist Moosa Mohammed scaled the Bahraini Embassy in London in protest of the impending executions of torture victims Ali AlArab and Ahmed AlMalali. He called on the Bahraini government to halt the unjust executions, echoing the calls made by United Nations (UN) experts, government officials, and international NGOs. In response to Moosa’s protests, the staff at the Bahraini Embassy reportedly reacted with violence – allegedly beating him and threatening to throw him off the building. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) condemns in the strongest possible terms the treatment of Moosa and raises broader concerns regarding the treatment of journalists in the Gulf and the issue of impunity for crimes against journalists.
Earlier that day, the families of Ali AlArab and Ahmed AlMalali received a phone call for a “special visit.” According to Article 330 of Bahrain’s Code of Criminal Procedure, relatives of persons scheduled for execution will be permitted a final visit “on the date fixed for the execution,” before the sentence is carried out. This worrying news came less than 24 hours after United States Attorney General Barr announced the federal government would resume executions of death row inmates.
Following news that the executions were likely to take place, Moosa climbed to the roof of the Bahraini Embassy in London. Like Ali AlArab and Ahmed AlMalali, Moosa had been subjected to abuse at the hands of Bahraini authorities. He fled Bahrain in 2006 after being detained and tortured, and was granted asylum in the United Kingdom, where he now works as a photojournalist. Once he reached the top of the Embassy, Moosa rolled out a banner reading “I am risking my life to save 2 men about to be executed…” in hopes that he could draw more attention to their cases and stop the executions from occurring.
Moosa was soon approached by staff members of the Embassy, as police and firefighters gathered to assess the situation from the ground. He alleges that the Bahraini officials began to beat him with a wooden stick as he straddled the ledge of the building, and that they were pushing him and threatening to throw him off the building. He was then dragged off the ledge where he disappeared from the view of individuals watching below. Protesters shouted that the Bahraini government was going to kill Moosa like Khashoggi – referencing the journalist who was murdered in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Moosa claims that the Bahraini authorities kicked him, tied his hands, and placed a wet shirt over his face, making it difficult to breathe. He recounts them also saying to him “we will kill you here.”
Bahrain – like Saudi Arabia – has a history of targeting journalists with impunity. In 2012, Bahraini security forces shot and killed photojournalist Ahmed Ismail Hassan while he was attending a protest against the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain. The UN called for an investigation of Hassan’s death, but according to a 2016 UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization report, the case is unresolved and the perpetrators remain at large. Additionally, in 2011, Bahrain’s National Security Agency (NSA) detained Karim Fakhrawi, cofounder of the now-closed independent newspaper Al-Wasat, and tortured him to death.
In response to concerns for photojournalist Moosa’s life, police and fire forces eventually forced entry to the Bahraini Embassy and retrieved Moosa, who is currently out on bail and facing allegations of trespassing. Hours later, Ali AlArab and Ahmed AlMalali, along with a Bangladeshi individual, were executed by the Bahraini government.
“The actions of the Embassy officials here are appalling and criminal, but not surprising to those of us who know Bahrain,” says Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “Moosa was very fortunate that the British authorities entered the Embassy to save him – breaking diplomatic laws. If they did not take this extraordinary action, he may well have been thrown from the roof or further tortured. But there has been no public statement from the UK condemning the actions of the Embassy staff – this cannot go unaddressed.”
ADHRB calls on countries like the United Kingdom and United States, which maintain close relations with Bahrain, to reconsider their unwavering support for a country that tortures activists and silences journalists with impunity. We also call on the governments of Bahrain and the UK to open investigations into Moosa Mohammed’s allegations with the aim of holding the perpetrators accountable and ending impunity for crimes against journalists.