Profiles in Persecution: Salah Saeed AlHammar

Salah Saeed AlHammar is a 26-year-old Bahraini citizen, who was arbitrarily detained, tortured, and later placed in solitary confinement after participating in a hunger strike to protest the poor prison conditions. Salah remains imprisoned at Jau Prison.

In mid-December 2011, officials arrested Salah in the street without providing a warrant. Salah was charged with illegal assembly, and the Bahraini court sentenced him to one year in prison. Salah was released in 2013 after he completed his sentence, but on 26 July 2014, the Bahraini court sentenced Salah to an additional 15 years in prison for his alleged involvement in a case which involved the burning of mail.

Salah was arrested on 26 July 2015 to serve his 15-year prison sentence after being chased and shot at by Ministry of Interior (MoI) security forces and officers in plain clothing, as well as officers raiding his home multiple times throughout the day. The officers charged him with intentionally shooting at police officers and accused him of helping to organize a bombing in Sitra that occurred two days after Salah’s arrest.

After arresting him, the MoI officers disappeared Salah for four days in the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). On the fourth day, the officers allowed him to call his family to inform him of his location. The phone call lasted mere seconds.

On 31 July 2015, prison officials transferred Salah to Dry Dock Detention Center pending trial. While at Dry Dock, officials tortured Salah by keeping him tied up at all times and refusing to allow him to use the restroom until he started urinating blood. He claims that the prisons officials said he deserved to be tortured because of his political opinions and because he is Shia.

On 12 August 2015, the MoI issued a statement, which implicated Salah in the Sitra bombing. Additionally, on 13 August 2015, the MoI broadcasted the statement and a video of him and two other detainees confessing to the planning and execution of the Sitra bombing. The video also contained a detailed explanation of the operation. However, Salah maintains that officials coerced him to confess to the bombing through threats and torture. Additionally, he claims that he was not fully conscious during the filming. The confession was later used against Salah during his trial.

On 29 March 2017, the Bahraini court sentenced Salah to life imprisonment and revoked his Bahraini citizenship for his alleged involvement in the Sitra bombing. Prison officials then transferred him to Jau Prison. On 29 October 2018, the Court of Cassation upheld his conviction; however, in April 2019, the King of Bahrain restored Salah’s and 550 other individuals’ nationalities by royal order.

In May 2019, prison officials transferred Salah and two other prisoners to an “isolation building” of Jau Prison without providing them with a reason for the transfer. On 15 August 2019, Salah and 14 other prisoners participated in a hunger strike to protest the poor prison conditions and this policy of “isolation.” In response to the hunger strike, on 28 August 2019, prison officials transferred him and two others to solitary confinement and have since held Salah incommunicado.

Salah and his family have sought help to no avail from the MoI Ombudsman and the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) several times. On 3 September 2019, his family filed the most recent complaint concerning his solitary confinement and the prison’s denial of visits and communication. They have not received a response. Salah remains incommunicado in Jau Prison.

The Government of Bahrain’s treatment of Salah is in violation of Bahrain’s international human rights obligations, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment (CAT). Articles 2 and 11 of the CAT prohibit torture and ill treatment, which Salah experienced at the CID, and require State Parties to prevent torture as well as to investigate and punish its perpetrators. Additionally, if Salah’s coerced confession was used at trial, this would violate Article 15 of the CAT.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls upon Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations by releasing Salah due to a lack of evidence regarding the charges. We further call on the Bahraini authorities to investigate Salah’s allegations of ill treatment and torture at the CID and Jau Prison, with a view towards holding the perpetrators accountable.