Profile in Persecution: Husain Jaafar Saleh

On 13 July 2015, during the month of Ramadan, Husain Jaafar Saleh was arrested at a bazaar in Al Malikiyah, Bahrain. He was a 27-year-old final-year engineering student at the Bahrain Training Institute and owned a shop that sold bags. Initially, Husain was sentenced in absentia to five years imprisonment. He maintains that he did not know the details of the case for which he was sentenced. Later, Husain was sentenced to a total of 33 years in an unfair trial on the basis of confessions obtained from other defendants on charges of setting fire to an ATM, burning tyres, rioting and being in possession of highly flammable material.

At the time of his arrest, Husain was preparing his stall at the bazaar. When he went to retrieve an item from his car, he noticed a number of large vehicles belonging to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) stationed in the parking lot. Subsequently, MoI officers disguised by wearing traditional Bahraini abaya and niqab arrested Husain without presenting an arrest warrant.

Following his arrest, Husain was held incommunicado by the Bahraini authorities for an entire day. During his detention, he was tortured and abused at the hands of Bahraini authorities. On 14 June 2015, Husain called his family from Al Badeeh police station asking them to bring him clothes. However, when his wife went to the police station to ask about her husband’s whereabouts, the police officers claimed they did not know where he was.  Two months later, on 13 August 2015, Husain’s family was permitted a visit. This was the first time they had seen each other since Husain’s arrest. Husain did not disclose the details of his torture during the interrogation, for fear that he would hurt his family’s feelings. However, he had bruises around his wrists from where he had been hung from the ceiling.

Husain is currently being held in Building 13 at Jau Prison. Whilst in detention at Jau Prison, Husain has been suffering from a callus on his foot which first appeared in 2017. The pain has made it difficult for him to walk. Prison officials have continued to deny Husain proper medical treatment despite the doctor’s recommendation for surgery. Over the years, Husain and his family have filed numerous complaints to the relevant oversight bodies, including the Ombudsman, concerning medical negligence and his deteriorating health condition. Yet, he continues to be denied proper medical care by the prison administration.

On 27 July 2020, a voice recording of Husain was published online, detailing his suffering over the past 3 years as a result of his foot injury. He announced that he had been on strike since 10 July 2020 by refraining from making external calls to his family and would continue to do so until he received proper treatment. More recently, on 7 August 2020, another voice message was published on Instagram announcing that Husain would be launching a hunger strike from 9 August 2020 due to the denial of medical treatment.

It is important to note that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Husain and other prisoners who are in vulnerable health conditions are at greater risk of contracting the virus. Yet, the prison administration has failed to implement adequate precautions to protect inmates and staff from the virus.

The Bahraini authorities’ treatment of Husain violates Bahraini and international law, human rights treaties, and the Bahraini constitution. Torture, ill treatment, the use of false confessions and unfair trials, as well as a lack of proper health care, are all examples of the kinds of violations to which Husain was subjected. The authorities are in direct violation of Article 19.c. of the Bahraini Constitution, which states that: “A person cannot be detained or imprisoned in locations other than those designated in the prison regulations covered by health and social care and subject to control by the judicial authority”. The have also breached the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (ADHRB) calls upon the Bahraini Government to abide by their international human rights obligations in advancing human rights. ADHRB requests that the Bahraini Authorities, and in particular Jau Prison administration, provide Husain with health care and ensure a fair and just retrial and revision of Husain’s sentence.