Profile in Persecution: Husain Ali Matar

Husain Ali Matar was a 16-year-old student in his second year of middle school when he was arrested without a warrant after being summoned by a Ministry of Interior (MoI) officer via phone call. He was then subjected to physical and psychological torture and forced to confess. Husain is currently held in New Dry Dock Prison, serving his sentence.

On 28 June 2020, Husain was arrested after he was summoned by phone. His father received a call from an individual who identified himself as belonging to the MoI and asked him to urgently bring his son Husain to Roundabout 17 police station for questioning without stating why. He insisted that the family do not enter the police station and instead call the exact number which he is speaking from so that he would come out and take his son. On the same day and after the family and Husain went to the station and the same phone number was called, someone came out in civilian clothing to get Husain. It turned out to be the same individual who always threatens Husain every time he sees him saying, “I’m always going to be behind you, and I will never leave you in peace”. He took him into the station, and Husain was detained. The family waited outside, and, after a while, a security officer went outside and gave them some of Husain’s belongings, telling them that they will call them to inform them of any new news.

Husain had been arrested on political charges back in 2018, when he was only 14 years old. He was released in 2020 through royal pardon when he only had a couple of days remaining to serve his sentence. While Husain completed his middle school education while in prison, he did not receive a diploma for it, hindering his right to education. His latest arrest occurred approximately one month after his release, revealing how royal pardons are a mere façade posing as a goodwill move on behalf of the King.

Following his arrest, communication was cut off from him for two weeks. After that, Husain called when he was in Dry Dock Detention Center to only tell his parents where he was and that he was fine. Then, after another two weeks without any communication, Husain called again just to say that he is fine.

Husain was present in Roundabout 17 Police station throughout the interrogation period where he was subjected to various violations, some of which involved being forced to stand for a long period of time, excessive beatings, handcuffing from behind, blindfolding, cutting his hair as a means of humiliation, preventing him from praying, and depriving him of water and food for a while. Husain, still a minor, was unable to contact his lawyer and family throughout this.

Around a week later, he was transferred to the Office of the Public Prosecution (OPP). Only when Husain was brought before the OPP was his lawyer allowed to be present. Nevertheless, the lawyer’s presence was a mere formality as neither she nor Husain were allowed to speak. The lawyer noticed that Husain was not able to walk properly due to the torture which he was subjected to. After his transfer to the OPP, Husain was transferred to Dry Dock Detention Center. His interrogation lasted two weeks after which Husain was forced to confess.

On 29 September 2020, Husain was sentenced, along with a group of youths, to three years in prison.  Husain was charged with 1) assaulting a police officer and 2) possession of Molotov cocktails in the village of Buri. On Friday, which is the day authorities claimed that the incident in question took place, Husain was with his mother at his grandmother’s place. Despite the aforementioned, Husain was convicted. Furthermore, Husain suffered a number of fair trial violations including his forced confession being used against him in court, as well as neither Husain nor his lawyer being allowed to speak or present evidence in the trials to challenge the allegations made against him. When he appealed the judgment, not only did the Appeals Court uphold the three-year sentence, it also added a 500-Bahraini-Dinar monetary fine.

Currently, Husain is being subjected to medical negligence in the New Dry Dock Prison. Husain suffered from a severe rash all over his body due to the unhygienic and unsanitary conditions in the cell and bathroom and the dirty water inside the bathroom. Consequently, Husain contracted scabies and was placed in sanitary isolation without being given treatment. When his condition worsened, the prison authorities gave him a cream without the consultation of a doctor, but his condition deteriorated further. Husain is not getting the sufficient medical attention that he needs despite the fact that he suffers from sickle cell anemia and favism disease. Despite all this, not only is Husain required to buy his own hygienic products such as shampoo and deodorant, but these products are also considerably overpriced in the prison canteen, as 100 or 70 Bahraini Dinars were removed from his deposit upon making a purchase. Therefore, not only has the unhygienic and unsanitary conditions in the prison placed Husain’s health at risk, but the medical negligence that he is being subjected to by the authorities has only violated his rights even further and worsened his health.

In addition, Husain has been complaining of weakened eyesight, but nothing has been done in this regard. In addition, authorities are not providing him with clothing and are refusing to give him clothes brought by his parents. The meals that are served are inedible as the meats tend to be undercooked, pushing Husain to enter a hunger strike on 17 October 2021 for 3 days, calling for improvement in the quality of the meals provided.

Up until this date, Husain’s family has not been able to meet him under the pretext of the Coronavirus pandemic. Only around six or seven months after his arrest were they allowed to video call him. Husain’s family has filed various complaints regarding depriving him of making his scheduled calls, as well as the medical negligence he has been subjected to.

The Bahraini authorities’ treatment of Husain, from his arbitrary arrest, his torture, and his denial of fair trial rights, are all in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and constitute violations of Bahrain’s obligations under international treaties, namely the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Bahraini authorities are also in violation of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Thus, ADHRB calls on the Government of Bahrain to overturn Husain’s trial as it is marred with fair trial violations. Furthermore, ADHRB calls on the Bahraini authorities to investigate the allegations of torture and mistreatment in order to hold perpetrators of torture accountable. Also, ADHRB urges the Bahraini government to provide Husain with adequate medical treatment and to improve the hygienic and sanitary conditions of prisons, as well as guarantee the right to education for minors in prison, such as Husain.

On 29 April 2022, the Bahraini government decided to release Husain Ali Matar among a group of 69 prisoners under alternative sanctions, and on 6 May 2022, Husain was released. On 30 October 2022, Husain was arrested for the last time without an arrest warrant. He was sentenced to three years in prison after an unfair trial, before being released on 15 April 2024 under the Alternative Sanctions Law. For the latest updates on his case, refer to this link.