Profile in Persecution: Fadhel Abbas Sahwan

Fadhel Abbas Sahwan was a football player on the first team of the Galali Bahraini Club. Following high school, he worked as a driver at the National Motor Company. On 5 March 2017 he was violently arrested at his grandmother’s house in Sanabis. He was tortured and subjected to an unfair trial. He was imprisoned for three years in Jau Prison.

On the day of his arrest, the house was surrounded and raided by masked forces in civilian clothing at approximately 2:30am, including by riot police who did not present any warrant. Fadhel was not wanted by the authorities and his family did not receive any summons in his name. However, 18 days before the arrest his house was searched but the officers did not ask for a specific name. During the arrest, Fadhel’s possessions were scattered and his electronic devices amongst other things were confiscated. His pictures with his uncle were also confiscated.[1]

Fadhel was chained from behind and blindfolded with the t-shirt he was wearing. He was placed in a big car and was physically assaulted by getting slapped on his face. He was subjected to cursing and insults until they arrived at Qudaibiya Police Station of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) where his blindfolds were taken off.

After his arrest, Fadhel was subjected to enforced disappearance for 5 days. The investigation started one day after his arrival on 6 March 2017. The torture was initiated by the CID between Qudaibiya Police Station, AlMaared police station and Hoora Police Station. He was interrogated by some specific officers concerning the first charge he was accused of: illegal assembly on 14 February 2017 in Sanabis.[2]

During his interrogation, Fadhel was subjected to torture: he was slapped multiple times on his face and his head and subjected to spitting and cursing until the end of the first interrogation session. He was then moved to the courtyard of the station and stayed on a chair until the next day. The torture continued throughout 4 interrogation sessions during which he was undressed, threatened and subjected to electric shocks; he was also kicked on the body and face, threatened of rape and having a family member arrested. Moreover, Fadhel was handcuffed and hung from the top of the stairs for 5 hours.

His lawyer did not attend his interrogation and Fadhel was not allowed to contact him. Four days after his arrest, he was transferred from Qudaibiya Police Station to the Office of the Public Prosecution. He was then repeatedly transferred between Qudaibiya Police Station, AlMaared police station, Office of Public Prosecution and Hoora Police Station. On the sixth day, he was transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Centre, where he was made to wait two weeks before being able to speak to his family.

Fadhel was tortured because of his religious sect and political opinion. He was subjected to discriminatory insults and cursing because he belongs the Shiite religious sect. The prison administration prohibited Fadhel from freely practicing his religion and they confiscated religious books and restricted his practices.

Security forces also clearly stated that he was tortured because his family members were, and still are, political activists. Due to the torture, Fadhel suffered from bruises in his eye and different parts of his body. To this day, he has not received any treatment.

Fadhel was accused on three charges: (1) illegal assembly with the purpose of committing crimes and disrupting public security using violence, possession of incendiary bottles with the purpose of using them to endanger the lives of people in addition to public funds; (2) illegal assembly and rioting; (3) assaulting a civilian security personnel on 23 July 2012, illegal assembly with the purpose of committing crimes and disrupting public security using violence for terrorism purposes, possession of incendiary bottles with the purpose of using them to endanger the lives of people in addition to public and private funds for terrorism purposes. Fadhel was sentenced to a combined five years in prison. All judgements were upheld.

From the moment he was transferred to Jau Prison on 30 May 2017 he was received by policemen who were amongst those who initiated the torture against him. They physically assaulted him in a place that had no surveillance cameras, severely punched his face until his mouth bled and kicked him all over his body. They tied his hands behind his back and his feet with chains; he was forced to stand for 3 hours.

After serving 3 years in prison, Fadhel was released on 17 March 2020. He still suffers from skin conditions and vitiligo (a chronic skin disease). Moreover, Fadhel still suffers from a problem in his right eye as a result of the torture and beating.

Fadhel’s treatment is a violation of Bahrain’s international human rights obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), conventions to which Bahrain is a signatory. Fadhel did not have the right to communicate with his lawyer during his interrogation, his arrest was warrantless, he was tortured, enforcibly disappeared, and was not presented promptly before a judicial authority, confessions obtained under torture was used against Fadhel and none of the arguments presented by his lawyer were received: for the aforementioned reasons, Fadhel’s arrest, interrogation and trials are in violation of Articles 7, 9, 10, 14, 17 and 18 and 22. The latter articles represent his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and his right to freedom of association. The torture Fadhel has been subjected to, from the day of his arrest and until his arrival to the prison is a significant violation of the CAT.

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Government of Bahrain to investigate Fadhel’s allegations of torture, with a view to holding the perpetrators accountable, notably the officers referred to in Fadhel’s testimony, who he claims tortured him in a room with no CCTV. Lastly, ADHRB calls on the Government of Bahrain to respect the international human rights obligation in the conventions it has acceded.

[1] His uncle was Mohamed Sahwan who was arrested in November 2011 and suffered from 80 shotgun shrapnel in his head, ear and back during the suppression of the protests that took place in Sanabis in April 2011. Mohamed died on 16 March 2017 as a result of the negligence of the prison administration in providing him with treatment.

[2] On 14 February 2017 a march took place condemning the judgment that was issued against the prominent religious Sheikh Isa Qassim.