Profiles in Persecution: Abbas Ismaeel Ghuloom

Abbas Ismaeel Ghuloom was a professional football player in Bahrain, having played for the Manama Club and the national team between the years 2000 and 20O2. He graduated from Ahlia University and worked as an accountant in the Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait for seven years. In March 2011, he was violently arrested and tortured. He remains arbitrarily detained in Jau Prison.

On 24 March 2011 at 2am, more than 20 masked and armed policemen raided his family home. The house was surrounded by another group that the family could not even identify. Security officers broke their front and garage doors in order to enter the house while the family was asleep. The arrest was warrantless and violent: the officers woke the entire family asking a lot of questions to Abbas’s parents, not taking into consideration that they suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure. Abbas was immediately arrested, handcuffed from behind and blindfolded. He was beaten in front of his family and was taken to an unknown location. After this scene, his mother fainted and passed out and his sister became hysterical because she was scared. Policemen insulted, cursed and discriminated against the whole family on sectarian grounds.

After his arrest Abbas was forcibly disappeared for two months, during which his family did not receive any news regarding his whereabouts. He was able to contact his family only two months after his arrest, on the day of his trial. Abbas remained at the Criminal Investigations Directorate for approximately 20 days and was interrogated every two or three days. He was transferred to the Office of the Public Prosecution twice during March 2011. During the first time he refused to confess, but the second time he was forced to sign papers while blindfolded. Abbas was then transferred again to the Dry Dock Detention. He was only able to contact his family the day before his trial, which was two and a half months after his arrest.

During his interrogation, Abbas was tortured on the basis of sectarianism given the fact that he belonged to the Shiite sect; all the insults and foul language were based on his religion since the day of his arrest. At the Criminal Investigations Directorate he was subjected to various methods of torture, such as severe beating, being chained by the hand and legs and hung from the ceiling while chained and being hit with a stick on the bottom of his bare feet. He was subjected to electric shocks, sexual harassment and threats of rape, especially against his mother and sister.

Moreover, Abbas was prohibited from sleeping and using the bathroom or wearing his clothes. He was also forced to take sleeping and hallucinogenic pills, in addition to the offending of high prominent religious and political leaders. As a result of torture, some of his teeth are now broken, he suffers with a knee injury, where he previously underwent surgery, and suffers from injuries and bruises in his feet. He also shows signs of torture on the front of his left knee and signs of pink discolorations on the soles of his feet as well as signs of faded healing in the upper soles of his right hand.

Abbas did not ask for a doctor because he was afraid that this would lead to further torture. As a result of the attack that was executed by the riot police on Al-Amal Building in prison in 2013,[1]  Abbas also had his nose broken. He was also one of the prisoners forced to sleep in outdoor tents under the rain and freezing weather by the Jordanian Gendarmerie in 2015 in Jau Prison.

Abbas was charged for the murder of a Pakistani man, which took place in Manama City on 13 March 2011 at 7.30pm, illegal assembly and damaging public funds. However, on the same day, Abbas was injured in the hip and was taken to Al-Salmaniya Hospital in the Dock region around 11am where he was given a Voltaren shot at 1pm. He stayed at the hospital until 6pm and there is a report issued by the hospital that shows that he was injured and could not move or walk this day. In addition to the medical report, a defense witness confirmed these events.

Moreover, Abbas did not know about his charges before the trial, which took place more than two months and a half after his arrest. He did not read his charges during his interrogation, and was interrogated based on the accusation of communicating with receiving support and funding from Iran. His father could not hire a lawyer ahead of the first trial because he was only informed about the trial the night before. On 3 October 2011, Abbas was sentenced by the National Safety Court, a military court established at the time, to 25 years in prison. During his appeal, the sentence was reduced to 15 years of prison. The last judgement was upheld by the Court of Cassation.

Abbas’s treatment is a considerable violation of Bahrain’s international human rights obligations  under 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 (IESCR). Abbas was not allowed to communicate or see his attorney during his interrogation and until the issuance of the judgement, he did not know the charges against him before the trial, and he confessed under torture for hitting the victim, but not to killing him.

These confessions have been used against him during the trial while he could not be represented by a lawyer. His arrest was warrantless, and he was not presented promptly before a judicial authority. His trial did not conform to legal procedures: the Investigating Officer did not visit the crime scene, he did not gather important information related to the victim, the sources that provided information related to the crime were confidential, the investigation unit could not specify the roles played by each accused in the crime and the contradiction between the statements of investigations. Abbas was tortured, threatened, beaten since the day of his arrest, and  his entire family was insulted on sectarian grounds. For these reasons, Abbas’s treatment is in violation of Articles 7, 9, 10, 14, 18 and 19 of the ICCPR and a significant violation of the CAT.

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Government of Bahrain to release Abbas. If serious criminal convictions can be maintained against him, we call for any retrial to be re-conducted in accordance with international standards for a fair trial. Additionally, we call for an investigation into Abbas’s allegation of torture, with a view to holding the perpetrators accountable, notably the Lieutenants referred to in Abbas’s testimony, one of whom testified against Abbas during his trial, in contradiction with the testimony of the other witness.

[1]On 28 November 2013, the authorities in Jau Prison attacked Building 1 of the prison, which is known as the Isolation Building and also known as Al-Amal Building. This started when a prisoner on death row, Ali Al- Tawil, was subjected to beating by the authorities. Other prisoner objected the mistreatment and torture of Al-Tawil and thus a protest movement occurred. Consequently, the majority of prisoners were attacked and subjected to beating, in addition to being transferred to solitary confinement.