Profiles in Persecution: Abdulla Ali AlSemoom

Abdulla Ali AlSemoon, a former professional footballer who played for the Bahrain National Football team (2007-8) as well as Busaiteen Club, is currently arbitrarily imprisoned in Jau Prison. On 19 April 2014, Abdulla was arrested when a bomb went off in his car. After being transferred to hospital he was later subjected to torture and convicted in an unfair trial.

One year earlier, on 28 January 2013, Abdulla’s house was raided and police forces arrested his brother Jaber, without any mention of Abdulla’s name. However, when Jaber’s case went to court, Abdulla was named and he was accused of rioting and illegal assembly in Karbabad village.

On 2 October 2013, Abdulla was tried in the ‘Karranah Case’ for rioting and illegal assembly and was sentenced in absentia to three months in prison. Two months later, on 8 December 2013, when Jaber was sentenced to three years in prison, Abdulla was acquitted.

On 19 April 2014, after the bombing of his car, Abdulla was transferred to the Private International Hospital of Bahrain by citizens of Al-Maqsha village. Abdulla was then arrested and transferred from that hospital to Al-Salmaniya Medical Hospital, where maximum security was placed in front of his hospital room. He was arrested by Bahraini forces including civilian forces, riot police, Special Security Force Command (SSFC); officers from every command were present at the scene of the explosion and the hospital.

Abdulla did not know the reason for his arrest but was aware that the Bahraini forces were asking about him since his family received a summons. Due to the severe injuries, Abdulla remained in hospital for two months, one of which was spent in a coma. He was then interrogated for three to four days during the last two weeks of his stay, before his transfer to the Criminal Investigation Directorate Building on 17 June 2014. On 18 June 2014, he was transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center.

Abdulla was charged on two counts: 1) illegal assembly and rioting in the Karranah region, and 2) illegal assembly and rioting with production and possession of explosive devices in the case of the explosion in Al-Maqsha. On 2 October 2013, Abdulla was sentenced to three months in prison on the first charge; this judgment was upheld on 9 December 2014, and again on 18 November 2015 by the Court of Cassation.  On 30 September 2015, Abdulla was sentenced in the presence of his attorney to ten years in prison on the second charge. The judgment was upheld on 26 May 2016. Abdulla was not able to see or communicate with his attorney since the beginning of his interrogation, neither during his trial.

The torture initiated by the Criminal Investigations Directorate and the Security Forces was practiced in order to coerce a confession. Adbulla did not confess but he was forced to sign papers at Al-Salmaniya Hospital without knowing their contents.

The interrogation procedures and those of the Office of Public Prosecution were completed in Al-Salmaniya Hospital. Abdulla was subjected to ill-treatment and to psychological torture. Despite the seriousness of his injuries, he was insulted and threatened by members of the Security Forces to have the medical equipment removed. Some officers threatened to deprive him of sleep or obstruct medical staff from doing their jobs. Abdulla was tied up in chains by members of the security forces that kept him immobile even when his doctor was asking for the chains to be removed. Moreover, Abdulla was subjected to various forms of ill-treatment at the Dry Dock Detention Center, he was insulted and forced to do certain sports movements despite his bad health, subjected to degrading searches, his crutches and medications were confiscated while he was unable to walk and stayed for a period of time using a wheelchair.

On 30 September 2015, he was transferred to Jau Central Prison, where he was severely beaten and insulted. Additionally, he was barred from freely practicing his religion. Accordingly, Abdulla filed a complaint himself to the Ombudsman regarding the prohibition of practicing the rituals of Ashura in 2018 and he was then placed in solitary confinement.

Abdulla did not complete his treatment. He still needs surgeries for his ruptured tendon and for the cut in the nerves in his foot, he also needs physiotherapy. The Prison Administration refuses to get to his demands. He still suffers from blurred vision, a ruptured tendon, the cut in the nerves in his foot and from burn marks and severe back pains. His family filed several complaints to the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman but Adbulla did not receive the necessary treatment. He remains in Jau Prison.

His family saw him after the explosion in order to sign off one of the necessary surgeries for his treatment. However, while Abdulla was in a coma, his family was not allowed to visit him for two weeks because the Office of Public Prosecution denied access. His sister has also been arrested after she took a picture of Abdulla when he was transferred from the private hospital to Al-Salmaniya. Her phone was confiscated at the Criminal Investigation Building and she had to sign a statement.

The treatment of Abdulla violates Bahrain’s international human rights obligations, 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).

Abdulla’s warrantless arrest and arbitrary detention are in violation of Articles 9, 10 and 14 of the ICCPR.  Additionally, the use of torture is a considerable violation of Article 14 of the ICCPR and the CAT. Furthermore, the prohibition for Abdulla to practice his religion is a violation of Article 26 of the ICCPR, which states that everyone has the right to practise his own religion. Abdulla’s case is also in violation of Article 12 of the ICESCR, which provides that everyone has the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Government of Bahrain to release Abdulla. If serious criminal convictions can be maintained against Abdulla, we call for any retrial to be conducted in accordance with international standards for a fair trial. Additionnaly, we call for an investigation into Abdulla’s allegations of torture, with a view to holding the perpetrators acountable. Finally, we call on the Government to provide appropriate medical care and medicine to Abdulla and all individuals in prison and detention centers.