Profile in Persecution: Mazen Mansoor AlWanna

Mazen Mansoor AlWanna was a 35-year-old traffic and insurance broker when he was arrested during a raid to his home in January 2013. Tortured into confessing and forced to sign papers without knowing their content, Mazen was convicted with seven others in a terrorism case known as the ‘Imam Army Cell’. In Jau Prison, Mazen’s health has deteriorated as he has not received proper treatment for pre-existing conditions and he has since contracted COVID-19. 

On 26 January 2013, at 1:30 a.m., Mazen and his family were awakened by a loud knock on the door by more than 30 masked officers in civilian clothing and officers from the Ministry of Interior, including riot police, security police officers, and CID officers. They raided and searched Mazen’s family home without presenting a search or arrest warrant and without stating the reason for the arrest. The arresting forces also had a photographer with them who was videotaping the whole process. After confiscating various electronic devices, officers took Mazen to a bus outside his house parked among 50 to 60 other police cars surrounding the neighborhood. Officers blindfolded and handcuffed him. 

For the first five days of his arrest, Mazen’s family did not know where he was or what had happened to him until he called them for five minutes on 31 January 2013 to reassure them that he was okay. Mazen was interrogated without a lawyer and was tortured into providing a confession. Investigation officers at the CID in Adliya sexually harassed Mazen, electrocuted him, beat him, held him in a cold room and forced him to stand for two whole days. They also forced him to sign papers without knowing their contents, under the threat to assault his wife. 

Mazen’s family was allowed to visit him on 2 February 2013 but due to a misunderstanding about the location of the visit, his family missed the appointment and could only see him for 10 minutes. During the visit, Mazen could not talk freely because there was a surveillance camera pointed at him, and a prison guard was standing at the door. He was finally able to meet his lawyer one and a half months after his arrest, on 12 March 2013. 

Mazen was charged and convicted on 12 June 2014 in a case known as the ‘Imam Army Cell’. He was charged with 1) joining an illegal group, 2) gathering funds to engage in terrorist activity, and 3) training to use weapons in order to commit terrorist crimes. He was sentenced to a total of 15 years in Jau Prison. 

Before Mazen’s arrest, he suffered from pre-existing conditions, namely a problem with a disc in his back and chronic constipation, which worsened during his time in Jau Prison as he was not regularly taken to his doctors’ appointments for his disc and was given ineffective medicine for his constipation problem. Moreover, while incarcerated, Mazen broke his leg but was never treated by an orthopedic doctor. He started developing glands on his back and chest but still does not know their cause or nature because of a lack of access to health care. After being tortured on 10 March 2017, Mazen reported blood in his urine. Mazen has also developed high blood pressure and poor eyesight since arriving at Jau Prison. 

In recent months, Mazen has been a victim of the COVID-19 outbreak inside the prison, contracting the virus on 27 March 2021. He was then transferred to a different building and then to an isolation ward in Al-Hidd where hygienic and health care conditions were, according to him, worse than in Jau Prison. In Al-Hidd, no precautionary hygienic measures were taken, Mazen was locked in his cell 24 hours a day and was not allowed to go out to the yard. Moreover, he was not provided with any medicine, food, or drinks that could help his recovery, and the medical staff did not keep track of the prisoners’ temperature or oxygen levels. Contact with his family was completely cut off during his time in isolation, and the only way his family received news about his condition was through the test results posted on the website of the Ministry of Health. It was only after he recovered and was sent back to Jau Prison that Mazen could contact his family. This situation has taken a toll on Mazen’s already weary physical and psychological health, as he continues to receive suboptimal health care and treatment. 

The Bahraini authorities’ actions against Mazen, from his unwarranted arrest, his torture and coerced confession to his deprivation of a fair trial and lack of adequate medical assistance and treatment in prison, all constitute violations of Bahrain’s obligations under international law, namely the Convention Against Torture (CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). ADHRB calls upon Bahraini authorities to grant Mazen a retrial that sees the respect of international evidentiary standards and due process and to investigate claims of torture and inhumane treatment in order to hold prison officials accountable. Furthermore, ADHRB urges the authorities to respect basic standards of hygiene and sanitation and to provide Mazen with proper medical and health care in order to relieve him of his pain and prevent his health condition from worsening.