Profiles in Persecution: Ali Fadhel Abbas

Ali Fadhel Abbas, a 21-year-old garage worker, was arbitrarily arrested in 2019 at the Bahrain International Airport while returning from Iraq, where he visited the shrine of Imam Husain on the 40th day of his martyrdom. He is currently detained in Dry Dock Detention Center, where he has been for almost a year, awaiting the issuance of his judgment.

When Ali arrived at the airport on 31 October 2019, he was questioned about his trip before being arrested. Civilian officers from the passport department arrested Ali without presenting an arrest warrant, and he was transferred to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) for investigation. Ali was subjected to enforced disappearance during the first few hours of his arrest. Ali’s family learned of his arrest from his friends who were with him; they were not informed of his arrest in an official manner. The family received a call from Ali hours after his arrest informing them that he was at the CID.

During the investigations, Ali was asked about the names of people in town who had taken part in demonstrations and spoken up against the system. However, Ali always responded that he did not know their names, and that he did not participate in any activity related to the revolution or assemblies. He was then transferred to the ‘Interrogations Building’ (Building 15) of Jau Prison, where he was questioned and tortured for eight days for a period of nine to 11 hours per day. After that, he was transferred to the Criminal Investigations Directorate in Adliya and kept there for 15 days, before being transferred to Dry Dock Detention Center. At the beginning of the interrogation, Ali did not yet have a lawyer, and therefore did not have access to legal counsel. When Ali appointed a lawyer, he was still prohibited from attending the investigation. 23 days after his arrest, Ali was brought before a  judge at the Public Prosecution Office (PPO).

Despite this torture, Ali did not confess. Almost a month after his arrest, he was allowed to contact his family for the first time while being at Dry Dock Detention Center.

Ali is accused of joining a terrorist group and receiving funds and fireworks for it, in order to disrupt the Bahraini Constitution and laws and prevent the state institutions and public authorities from fulfilling their mission. Seven months after his arrest, Ali attended his first hearing. However, he has not yet been convicted, as the hearing for the issuance of the judgement was postponed until 28 October 2020.

Currently, due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, family visits were replaced with video calls. At first, Ali was contacting his parents regularly, but currently Ali contacts his family once every two to three weeks. In September 2020, scabies spread among prisoners in Dry Dock Detention Center because of a new prisoner who was suffering from it. As a result, Ali was infected. On 12 September 2020, Ali called his family to let them know that his condition had worsened and asked them to bring him medicine; Ali’s condition improved after using the medicine. However, all of the other inmates were later transferred to their rooms, except for Ali, who was transferred to a room that he shares with foreign prisoners with whom he cannot communicate at all. Despite the spread of the Coronavirus, Ali is not provided with any protection such as masks or gloves. If Ali is not transferred from his cell, which he shares with foreign prisoners with whom he cannot communicate at all, Ali’s family intends to file a complaint to the Ombudsman Office in the coming days and request his return to his original cell.

Ali’s arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, and detention within inhumane and unhealthy conditions violate both the Bahraini Constitution as well as international obligations to which Bahrain is party. Namely, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Since an arrest warrant was not presented, and given that Ali is not yet convicted, we can conclude that Ali was arbitrarily detained by Bahraini authorities.

Accordingly, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls upon Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations by investigating all torture allegations to ensure accountability. It also urges Bahrain to transfer Ali to another cell with sanitary and safe prison conditions, to put Ali with inmates with whom he can communicate, and to provide Ali with masks and gloves to protect him from the Coronavirus.