Profile In Persecution: Ahmed Isa Ali

Ahmed Isa Ahmed Yahya Ali, a 23-year-old Bahraini machine operator, was arbitrarily arrested from his own home after it was raided by masked civilian officers. During his arrest and subsequent imprisonment, he was subjected to severe forms of torture, abuse and discrimination. He is currently being held in the notorious Jau Prison in Bahrain. The United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published an opinion on 09 June 2020 about Ahmed’s case, along with 19 other Bahraini citizens, who were all convicted in a mass trial of 138 defendants dated 15 May 2018 for their alleged involvement in a terrorist cell known as the ‘Zulfiqar Brigades’.

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) raised a complaint through the UN Special Procedures Complaint Program on behalf of the individuals convicted in this particular case. The WGAD concluded that the sentencing of these defendants was in stark violation of several international human rights laws concerning arbitrary detention.

On 03 November 2015, Ahmed was arrested from his own home in Hamala after it was raided by masked civilian officers. Ahmed and some of his family’s belongings were confiscated by the officers. Police officers surrounded Ahmed’s house with police and military vehicles. These officers claimed that they did so for fear that Ahmed might attempt to escape, despite being in a leg cast for a broken ankle. At the time of his arrest, no warrant was presented by the police forces, nor did they state a reason for Ahmed’s arrest. The WGAD concluded that the Bahraini Government had failed to establish a legal basis for Ahmed’s detention.

Following his arrest, Ahmed was forcibly disappeared for 3 days. At the time, Ahmed was only allowed to call his family for a few seconds to inform them that he was in the Criminal Investigation Directorate. Later, he was able to inform them that he was transferred to Jau Prison.

Ahmed’s interrogation took place for a total of 27 days inside of Building 15 at Jau Prison. It has been reported that this particular facility is affiliated with the National Security Agency (NSA) and Bahrain’s main intelligence agency. During his interrogation, Ahmed was severely tortured. Officers from the Central Investigation Department (CID) and the National Guard beat his head and back, slapped him on his face, and forced him to stand for 10 hours straight whilst blindfolded, handcuffed and stripped naked. He was tortured and beaten by officers with his hands and feet chained. Ahmed was also deprived of sleep, and officers threatened him with rape, as well as making threats against his family’s honor.

The UN WGAD states that torturing individuals during their interrogation and coercing confessions is an abuse of power on the part of the government. Moreover, Ahmed discovered that these police officers, in addition to officers from the Ministry of Interior and the National Guard, were trained by experts who taught them to inflict beatings that would cause serious internal damage, without leaving external bruises or marks.

A week after Ahmed’s arrest, he informed his parents over a phone call that he was charged with ‘joining a terrorist group’. Ahmed’s family were not aware of the exact charges brought against him until his court hearing. Despite this, Ahmed was sentenced to life in prison and stripped of his nationality on 15 May 2018. Ahmed was not permitted to speak, present a defense nor provide evidence in court. The WGAD report determined that the use of forced confessions by the Bahraini Government as evidence in court raises doubts about their impartiality.

On 28 January 2019, Ahmed’s judgement was upheld in the Court of Appeal. Moreover, Ahmed’s judgement was also  upheld by the Court of Cassation on 01 July 2019,, when his nationality was reinstated in accordance with a royal pardon issued for 551 people who were stripped of their citizenship by Bahraini Courts in April 2019.

After his interrogation, Ahmed was transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center. He sustained several injuries from his torture, such as a 3-day long nose bleed, a hearing impairment, and he suffered from pains all around his body. Ahmed already had a broken ankle when he was arrested, and wore a cast from below his knee to his toes. However, the authorities prematurely removed his cast, causing his condition to deteriorate. Ahmed’s family believes he was tortured on account of his being affiliated with a particular Shia sect. Ahmed’s family did not file any complaints to the Ombudsmen Office, nor to the National Institute for Human Rights about his torture for fear of reprisals.

According to the WGAD, Ahmed’s treatment by the Bahraini authorities contravenes Articles 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Articles 2(3), 9, 14 and 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Ahmed’s torture, abuse, arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance are all in direct violation of several International treaties and Article 19.d. of the Bahraini constitution concerning personal freedom, which states that “no person shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, or inducement, or undignified treatment, and the penalty for so doing shall be specified by law. Any statement or confession proved to have been made under torture, inducement, or such treatment, or the threat thereof, shall be null and void”. In this regard, several articles from the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED), and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, are also violated.

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls upon the Bahraini authorities to abide by their international human rights obligations in protecting and promoting human rights. ADHRB urges the Bahraini government to investigate allegations of torture and other human rights violations, particularly with regards to Ahmed’s case, in order to hold perpetrators accountable. We ask authorities to disclose information about Ahmed’s case and his charges to his family, and preserve a fair trial.