Profiles in Persecution: Aqeel Hasan Abdulnabi

Aqeel Hasan Abdulnabi is a 35-year-old Bahraini man currently in Jau Prison, where he is consistently beaten, threatened, and denied necessary medical care. Aqeel suffers from epileptic seizures, which are exacerbated by, and in some cases caused by, stress and exhaustion. Abdulnabi has been arrested and released on multiple occasions.

Aqeel was previously arrested in February 2012 on charges of arson, but was ultimately released six weeks later due to his medical condition. Aqeel’s family home was raided 27 times, as the authorities were searching for his brother. During these raids, which were also conducted with force, officers would often threaten or scare Aqeel, exacerbating his medical condition and sometimes resulting in seizures.

On 19 October 2012, officers in plain clothing and SSFC officer arrested Aqeel again during a security sweep of his village of Eker following an explosion that resulted in the death of a policeman. Multiple homes were raided, including Aqeel’s. He was working at a nearby bakery when he heard the security forces were at his home. He returned and was arrested there. The officers beat him and forced him onto a police bus, where he suffered seizures. The officers returned to the family home and asked for his medication.

Officers disappeared Aqeel for 10 days, taking him to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), where CID officers subjected him to torture in order to coerce a confession out of his brother, who was being held in an adjacent cell and forced to listen to Aqeel being tortured. He was interrogated during his torture sessions, and his lawyer was not present while he was being questioned. After approximately ten days in the CID, he was transferred to Dry Dock Detention Center, pending his trial. He was not brought before a judge or other judicial authority until a week after his detention began.

As a result of his torture and beatings, Aqeel’s medical condition worsened, and he began to have seizures more frequently, every three or four days. When he asked for medication or to see a doctor, the guards would beat him. On 5 November 2012, administrators in Dry Dock told Aqeel he would be released three days later. They blindfolded him and forced him to sign papers without knowing their contents.

Throughout 2013, Aqeel’s health continued to deteriorate, and he suffered from multiple seizures in custody and was hospitalized on one occasion. In March 2013, he collapsed in court during a hearing, and the judge exempted him from being present in court due to his medical condition.

On 9 January 2014, Aqeel was convicted on charges relating to the explosion in Eker resulting in the death of a policeman, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. His conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeals, and the Court of Cassation declined to hear a further appeal. As such, he has exhausted all domestic remedies.  Following his conviction, Aqeel was transferred to Jau Prison, where he has continued to be subjected to ill treatment, including physical beatings and denial of medical care and phone calls.

Bahrain has violated a number of its international human rights obligations in its treatment of Aqeel, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to each of which Bahrain is a party. By holding Aqeel without criminal charges against him and without promptly bringing him before a judge, and by preventing him from legal counsel during interrogations and conducting hearings in absentia, the Bahraini authorities subjected him to arbitrary detention and an unfair trial, in violation of Articles 9 and 14 of the ICCPR. His torture during interrogations, as well as the physical beatings officers subjected him to for requesting medical care is in violation of the prohibition on torture in the CAT and Article 7 of the ICCPR. Further, the use of evidence and confessions obtained through torture to convict Aqeel is in violation of Article 15 of the CAT, and contributed to the unfair nature of Aqeel’s trial. Finally, the denial of medical care is in violation of Aqeel’s right to health, enshrined in Article 12 of the ICESCR.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Government of Bahrain to release Aqeel in light of his unfair trial and in consideration of his medical condition. We also call on the Bahraini authorities to investigate all claims of torture and ill treatment, with a view towards holding perpetrators accountable. Finally, we call on the Bahraini government to provide appropriate medical care for all individuals in prisons and detention centers.