27 November 2019 – Without offering any justification, Bahrain’s High Criminal Appeals Court has delayed a judgment due today in the case of Mohamed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa. Both men had previously been sentenced to death on the basis of torture-tainted confessions. Lawyers have been notified that the verdict will now be issued on December 25 – Christmas Day 2019.
This is a matter of grave concern, as the decision appears to mirror previous cases where Bahrain’s judiciary has attempted to bury controversial news on days when Western legislators and media are preoccupied.
On New Year’s Eve 2018, a Bahraini court upheld the five-year sentence of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab for posting critical tweets. During this summer’s UK, US and EU legislative recess, Bahraini authorities executed torture victims Ali Al-Arab and Ahmed Al-Malali.
The decision also comes a day after a news report on the BBC’s Arabic service highlighting credible allegations made by Ramadhan and Moosa that they were tortured into making false confessions, and the Bahraini state’s failure to adequately investigate these claims. Maher Abbas al-Khabbaz, who remains at imminent risk of execution following a grossly unfair trial, also featured in the piece, which drew on new assessments from the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims showing that the Bahraini state’s internal investigation of credible torture allegations made by the three men was neither credible nor independent.
Last year, following sustained campaigning by human rights groups, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation overturned the death sentences of Ramadhan and Moosa and ordered a case review. This was on the basis of evidence including medical reports by a doctor from the Public Prosecution documenting torture allegations which had not been considered by the court in the original trial. which resulted in an investigation. In October 2018, the case was referred back to the High Criminal Appeals Court. This does not constitute a retrial.
Ramadhan, an airport security officer, and Moosa, a hotel employee, were convicted on 29 December 2014 for their alleged involvement in a bomb explosion in al-Dair on 14 February 2014 that resulted in the death of a policeman. Both defendants have consistently maintained their innocence.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, commented: “The decision to postpone without justification the trial of Mohamed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa is extremely concerning. Once again, Bahrain’s corrupt judiciary appears to be attempting to exploit the Christmas holidays to bury bad news and avoid international scrutiny. Bahrain has proven time and again that it is willing to torture and execute individuals in pursuit of political aims. Make no mistake, this is a politicised trial.”
Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve, said: “The UK government must make sure this brazen attempt to escape the international spotlight does not succeed. British taxpayers have funded training for the Bahraini institutions attempting to cover up Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Moosa’s torture. Now Foreign Office representations at the highest level are urgently needed to prevent torture-tainted confessions being used to sentence these men to death on Christmas Day.”
Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain said: “Today’s court decision to postpone bears resemblance to other cases where the Bahraini government and judiciary have taken advantage of the holiday season to issue decisions in high-profile cases – including the trial on Christmas day two years ago, where five death sentences were issued against civilians by a military court. This is a practice, put in place by a member of the Human Rights Council, that cannot be ignored. We call on the international community to pressure the Bahraini authorities to ensure that their trial is carried out with all human rights guarantees, and to not allow the smokescreen of Christmas holidays to distract from rights abuses.”
There are currently eight individuals facing imminent execution in Bahrain, having exhausted all legal remedies. Two other individuals sentenced to death are still awaiting the Court of Cassation’s final decision, while seven are in exile. At least 12 more individuals are on death row in Jau prison on non-political charges, some of whom have exhausted all legal remedies.
In January 2017, the Bahraini authorities executed torture victims Sami Mushaima, Ali Al-Singace and Abbas Al-Samea. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, condemned the executions in both 2017 and 2019 as arbitrary killings.
According to the UN Committee Against Torture in 2017, the treatment and previous trial of Ramadan and Moosa fell short of international standards of fair trial and due process. In its concluding observations on Bahrain, the Committee recommended a retrial.
For detailed analysis of the UK Government’s programme of technical and security assistance to Bahrain, and how this has been used to obscure human rights abuses in Bahrain, see Reprieve and BIRD’s 2018 report: Training Torturers.