Profiles in Persecution: Abdulla Jaafar Yusuf

Abdulla Jaafar Yusuf is a 14-year-old Bahraini citizen. Bahraini authorities arrested him in 2018 without a warrant at a religious assembly, interrogated him without a lawyer present, and subjected him to an unfair trial. He is currently imprisoned in the Juvenile Care Center.

On 22 September 2018, Abdulla attended a procession in Diah to commemorate the Shia holy day of Ashura. Ministry of Interior (MOI) officers dispersed the gathering, arrested Abdulla, and took him to the Khamis police station. The officers questioned Abdulla without a lawyer for approximately 30 minutes, and then charged Abdulla with participating in an illegal assembly, rioting, and endangering road transportation. The police called Abdulla’s father and asked him to take Abdulla home. Before leaving with Abdulla, Abdulla’s father had to sign a pledge to bring him back to the station.

On 29 September, the authorities at the Khamis police station summoned Abdulla and his father. Once they arrived at the station, the officers questioned Abdulla from 8:00am to 1:00pm without a lawyer present. The officers interrogated Abdulla about the procession, which Abdulla acknowledged participating in, but denied that he had rioted. His father, who had to wait outside, took him home after the interrogation ended.

On 25 October, the authorities summoned Abdulla to the Office of Public Prosecution (OPP). Abdulla’s father took him to the OPP, where officers further interrogated Abdulla from 9:00am to 1:30pm while they kept Abdulla’s father outside. Abdulla reiterated that he had participated in the procession, but that he did not riot. After the OPP released him, the authorities had Abdulla sign another pledge to return to the Khamis police station when they asked.

On 31 October, the authorities summoned Abdulla to appear before the court on 11 November 2018. At his trial the court assigned Abdulla, accompanied by his father, a lawyer who they had never met before. The prosecution relied solely on confessions made by other detainees arrested during the 22 September procession. The judge then adjourned the trial, and Abdulla and his father went home without being told the date of the next court session or given any summons.

On 17 February 2019, the court convicted Abdulla in absentia and sentenced him to six months in prison. No one summoned Abdulla or his parents to the trial or notified them that Abdulla was on trial, and the family is unaware whether Abdulla’s lawyer attended the court session, as the lawyer has not been in communication with Abdulla or his parents.

On 27 March, Abdulla’s father received a call from the police instructing him to surrender Abdulla to serve his sentence. Abdulla and his father arrived at the police station on 28 March 2019, and the officers informed them that Abdulla had been sentenced to six months in prison and arrested him. The officers told them that they would transfer Abdulla to the Juvenile Care Center, and they did so that evening.

On 31 March, Abdulla had his first family visit at the Juvenile Care Center, where he told his parents that the authorities had held him in solitary confinement. The authorities kept Abdulla in solitary confinement the following week, until he was placed with other juveniles on 8 April. On 21 April 2019, the Court of Appeals upheld Abdulla’s conviction. His father went to the court for the hearing, but the officers prevented him from attending it. Abdulla remains at the Juvenile Care Center.

Bahrain’s actions against Abdulla violate international law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), each of which Bahrain has acceded to. Bahrain has also contravened the principles of international law enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) in its treatment of Abdulla.

Abdulla’s conviction for illegal assembly violates his freedom of expression and right to peaceful assembly, as enshrined in the ICCPR and the CRC. That the Bahraini court convicted Abdulla for participating in a religious procession also violates Abdulla’s freedom of religion, which the CRC and ICCPR further guarantee. Bahrain also violated Abdulla’s right to a fair trial, as international law holds that Abdulla has certain trial rights, such as the right to be tried in his and his parents’ presence and the right to adequate legal assistance. Additionally, Abdulla’s solitary confinement constitutes torture, violating Bahrain’s obligations not to torture under the CAT.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release Abdulla and annul his conviction, and to provide him compensation for the violation of his human rights and his arbitrary detention. We also call on the authorities to halt the use of solitary confinement, particularly for juveniles like Abdulla, as they are particularly vulnerable and the practice causes long-term effects and may amount to torture.