Profile in Persecution: Ahmed Hamza AlSafi

Ahmed Hamza AlSafi was a 21-year-old student when he was arbitrarily detained, tortured, and denied his fair trial and due process rights by Bahraini authorities. Up until now, Ahmed has been held in Jau Prison for almost four years.

On 13 December 2017, Ahmed was sleeping at his house when masked officers in civilian clothing and riot police conducted a raid at 2 a.m. Despite not presenting a warrant or stating the reason for the arrest, officers raided the apartment and Ahmed was arrested. Ahmed was wanted for several cases, including the Bahraini Hezbollah case.

Following his arrest, Ahmed was disappeared for two months, during which the investigation occurred. His family had no information about his wellbeing or whereabouts and submitted complaints to the Ombudsman and the NIHR requesting a call with him. Despite repeatedly following up on this matter, there was no outcome. They were only able to meet with him after his transfer to pre-trial detention.

During his disappearance, Ahmed was at AlQalaa Prison, where he was kicked and beaten with batons. CID officers threatened to sexually assault his family members. Additionally, Ahmed was blindfolded for most of the investigation period and was forced to stand for long durations.  He was interrogated without a lawyer, as he was prohibited from contacting her after his arrest. The torture was used to extract a coerced confession in the cases Ahmed was accused in; he ended up confessing, but his forced confession was annulled in court since it was extracted under duress. However, the court did not take into account the evidence provided stating that he was a student studying abroad in India.

Ahmed was convicted in several cases. On 16 April 2019, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a 100,000 Bahraini Dinar fine in the Bahraini Hezbollah case, an unfair mass trial involving 169 defendants. His citizenship was also revoked but was later reinstated through a royal pardon. Throughout the investigation and trials, Ahmed was denied access to his attorney and was not given adequate time and facilities to prepare for trial. The Appeals Court upheld the judgment in the Bahraini Hezbollah case, and the request for cassation was rejected.

Since his arrest and imprisonment, Ahmed has fallen victim to various human rights violations, including medical negligence as well as physical and psychological torture.  As a result, Ahmed developed a number of medical conditions, namely, swelling in his eyes and a severe gastric infection, as well as appearing visibly stressed and exhausted when visited by his family. His conditions have been heightened by the administration’s failure to provide him with proper medical treatment and adequate sanitary meals.

Moreover, Ahmed was infected with Coronavirus after its outbreak in Jau Prison and was repeatedly refused the chance to communicate with his family while ill. His family found out he was infected when the Ministry of Health called and informed them, not knowing he was a prisoner. When Ahmed did call his family, the duration did not exceed 3 minutes, suggesting that he was under strict surveillance. During the quarantine period in one of the Buildings of Jau Prison which he was transferred to, he is not allowed to go outside, there are no adequate sanitary measures, and the prisoners are not informed about the general situation in the prison regarding the spread of the virus. The cells are not cleaned regularly, and social distancing is not ensured between prisoners in cells. In addition, there is no medical assistance to follow up on his situation, and no medication has been provided to help him recover from the virus.

Ahmed’s arrest, unfair trial, and torture 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). The medical negligence Ahmed has experienced while in prison and after his infection with Coronavirus also violated the Mandela Rules. Since an arrest warrant was not presented and given that Ahmed was not granted a fair trial, we can conclude that Ahmed 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 voiding the judgement against Ahmed. If serious criminal charges can be held against him, authorities must conduct a fair retrial which conforms to universal judicial standards. ADHRB urges Bahrain to investigate all torture allegations to ensure accountability and to provide all prisoners with adequate medical care while guaranteeing all their basic human rights, amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.