Profiles in Persecution: Husain Ali Barbar

Husain Ali Barbar is a 23-year-old Bahraini student who was arrested at just 18 years old, arbitrarily detained, tortured, and refused proper medical treatment by prison officials. Husain is currently imprisoned at Jau Prison.

On 29 September 2014, around midnight, officers from Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior (MoI), including riot police, security police forces, and officers from the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), raided Husain’s home and arrested him without providing a warrant or a reason for his arrest. The officers took Husain to the CID where they tortured him for five days in an attempt to coerce a confession, which he refused to give.

The officers then transferred Husain to the Office of Public Prosecution (OPP) and charged him with arson in early October 2014; however, when Husain again refused to confess, the authorities returned him to the CID. At the CID, officers again tortured him repeatedly by dousing him with cold water and suspending him by the wrists from a ceiling fan. Husain continues to suffer from memory loss, recurring headaches and fainting spells, and back pain due to the torture. After five additional days of torture, Husain eventually confessed under duress. The agents then transferred Husain to Jau Prison. He was later charged with sabotage of government property in connection to events in March 2015, when a small number of inmates in Jau Prison overpowered the guards in a section of the prison after an altercation occurred during family visitation.

On 23 November 2015, a Bahraini court convicted Husain of arson. On 25 January 2016, he was convicted on the charges of sabotage of government property. He was sentenced to a combined 15 and a half years in prison. During the trials, the court used Husain’s confession, coerced through torture, as evidence to convict him.

On 3 July 2019, around 2:00am, prison guards dragged Husain out of his room, transferred him to solitary confinement, beat him, and handcuffed him. They then tied his hands and legs to a metal bedframe for four days as two officers tortured him. For three days, the police refused to give him food and denied him access to the restroom. When the police did give him food, they continued to keep him handcuffed, mocked him, insulted him, and harassed him. While he is unsure of why he was beaten and taken to solitary confinement, he believes that it may have been to punish him for accidentally damaging a prison phone the day before.

On 9 July 2019, the same day that the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) toured the prison, the administration took Husain out of solitary confinement. When staff from the NIHR questioned Husain about the pain he felt from the tortured he endured, Husain refused to say anything out of fear that he would be taken back to solitary confinement as punishment.

On 8 September 2019, the police transferred him to the prison clinic after he fainted. After Husain received treatment, prison officials transferred him to the “isolation building” of Jau Prison where police abused, provoked, and ridiculed him. Since being transferred to this building, Husain has not received any additional treatment, though he continues to suffer from frequent seizures and fainting.

Bahrain’s actions against Husain violate international law, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), each of which Bahrain is a party to. The beatings and torture are in violation of the CAT,  Articles 2 and 11 of which prohibit torture and ill treatment and require State Parties to prevent torture as well as to investigate and punish its perpetrators. The use of Husain’s confession, coerced through torture, is also a violation of Article 15 of the CAT, and contributed to the unfair nature of his trial under the ICCPR. Article 14 of the ICCPR provides that all individuals are entitled to a fair trial, yet the Bahraini authorities convicted Husain in a trial that was in flagrant violation of these provisions. Additionally, the denial of proper medical treatment for Husain’s seizures and fainting violates his right to health under Article 12 of the ICESCR.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls for the immediate release of Husain Ali Barbar. In light of Husain’s treatment while at the CID and Jau Prison, ADHRB also urges the authorities to investigate claims of torture and ill treatment, and to hold perpetrators accountable, as well as to ensure appropriate medical care is provided for all prisoners. We further call for the authorities to provide Husain with compensation for his arbitrary detention and suffering.