Profile in Persecution: Sayed Husain Saeed AlKhabbaz

Sayed Husain Saeed AlKhabbaz was a 17-year-old student when Bahraini authorities warrantlessly arrested him while he was in his car with his friends. Since his arrest, Sayed Husain has suffered ill-treatment and political discrimination at the hands of the Bahraini prison authorities. He remains in Jau Prison, completing the last years of his sentence.

On the evening of 22 July 2015, a civil patrol composed of officers in civilian clothing and officers from the Ministry of Interior (MoI), including riot police, security police forces and Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) officers, monitored Sayed Husain as he left his house in Salmabad with three friends. Soon after, they stopped the car in which Sayed Husain was, and asked him specifically about his personal number. They proceeded with reporting and arresting him, failing to present an arrest warrant or give a reason for the arrest.

The morning after his arrest, Sayed Husain was allowed to call his family and inform them that he was taken to the CID. At the CID, Sayed Husain found out that he had been accused of illegal assembly and rioting after other detainees mentioned his name in their confessions. In fact, Sayed Husain had been charged with 1) illegal assembly, rioting, and burning tires, and 2) assaulting a security officer. In April 2016, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment in the first case, and seven years imprisonment in the second case. His second sentence was reduced to five years in prison upon appeal, reducing his total sentence to eight years. This judgement was appealed again before the Court of Cassation, but the appeal was rejected and the judgement was upheld.

At the CID, officers told Sayed Husain that all the charges against him had already been written and were ready for signature because his friends who were detained had confessed against him. He was threatened with torture and beatings if he refused to sign the prepared statements. His hands were tied, he was blindfolded, his fingerprints were taken, and he was forced to sign the charges written against him without being allowed to read them. Sayed Husain was held at the CID for three days before being transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center for pre-trial detention.

Since his arrest, Sayed Husain has not been allowed to communicate with his lawyer and therefore has not managed to adequately prepare for his trial. Furthermore, no proper investigation took place as he was just forced to sign previously prepared statements under the threat of torture, and without being given the chance to defend himself. His family believes that he has been targeted because of his political opinion. Furthermore, Sayed Husain was only allowed to see his family one month after his arrest.

Following the issuance of the judgment, Sayed Husain was transferred to Jau Prison to carry out his sentence. There, he was held in isolation for ten consecutive days without knowing the reason nor being allowed to go outside for fresh air. Since his incarceration, Sayed Husain has suffered from pain in his back and his teeth. Despite asking to see a doctor, he has not been medically examined yet. His parents submitted a complaint to the prison authorities regarding that matter, requesting that he be allowed to see a doctor. However, they have not received any follow-up on the complaint yet. Although Sayed Husain has not contracted COVID-19 in prison, his family is worried he might get infected given the poor hygienic conditions in prison.

Sayed Husain’s family has also filed a complaint to the NIHR asking for his release as he has completed half of his sentence and is entitled to be released within the framework of alternative punishments. However, the NIHR has failed to provide Sayed Husain’s family with a response or any follow-up. As a result, Sayed Husain remains in Jau Prison, where he has entered his sixth year of incarceration.

Bahraini authorities’ treatment of Sayed Husain, from his arbitrary and warrantless arrest, denial of fair trial and due process rights, threats, ill-treatment, and political discrimination,  all constitute violations of Bahrain’s obligations under the Bahraini Constitution and under international treaties, namely the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Covennant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Therefore, ADHRB urges authorities to grant Sayed Husain a retrial that respects international evidentiary standards and is not based on false confessions extracted under duress or threat of torture. Finally, ADHRB calls upon authorities to urgently investigate allegations of ill-treatment and discrimination with a view to holding the responsible officers accountable.