Through its documentation of various cases of Bahraini individuals currently held in Dry Dock Detention Center, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) has identified a set of systemic practices perpetrated by Bahraini authorities, which violate international law and standards of human rights. ADHRB would like to express concern over the expanding campaign of arrests and human rights violations occurring on an almost daily basis at the direction of Bahraini authorities.
Individuals are routinely arrested without a warrant, or a reason given for their arrest. Arresting forces range from riot police, officers in uniform, and special security forces, to officers in civilian clothing. Arrests are often characterized by warrantless house raids, as in the case of Faris Husain Salman, an 18-year-old Bahraini student who was beaten in his bedroom and had the contents of his home destroyed during his arrest. Authorities frequently fail to inform the family where the individual will be transferred to, thereby forcing concerned families to engage in frantic searches for their loved ones. Individuals are acutely vulnerable in the period after the arrest and prior to their interrogation, as it is during this moment of transfer that individuals are usually insulted, beaten, or blindfolded so that they are unaware of their destination. At the interrogation center, they are either prohibited from contacting their families altogether or are permitted to call them only for a few seconds to inform them of their whereabouts and ordered to tell them they are fine. Contact is then typically prohibited until their transfer to pre-trial detention. As is made plainly evident by ADHRB’s ongoing Profiles in Persecution, many cases have exhibited these aforementioned trends of violations.
During interrogation, lawyers for the arrested are usually prevented from attending, thus depriving individuals of a fundamental right. Interrogating officers use different methods of physical and psychological torture in order to force the victims to confess to the charges against them, with little concern for the actual guilt or innocence of the individual. For instance, Sayed Ahmed Hadi Hasan, who was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison, was subjected to electric shocks and beatings with batons, while Mohamed Abduljabbar Sarhan was beaten hard, stripped naked, sexually assaulted and suffered cauterization of sensitive areas; both of them were 20-year-old Bahraini students at the time of their arrest in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Psychological torture has included yelling, threats to harm family members, and insults to religious figures and practices. Even at the Public Prosecution Office (PPO), victims are verbally assaulted or threatened to be returned to the interrogation center where they will suffer more torture if they do not sign the confessions. Abduljabbar Isa Mohamed was yelled at when he tried to deny the charges at the PPO and was threatened with the arrest of his brother.
Detention at Dry Dock
Once the victims have confessed under this duress, they are transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center where they await trial. While pre-trial detention is considered a means of last resort in criminal proceedings, detainees in Bahrain are held for months, even upward of a year, without a judgment being issued against them- as was the case for Sayed Ahmed AlAlawi- and sometimes without even being completely aware of the charges raised against them. During this period, authorities also deny detainees’ communication with their lawyer or the ability to properly prepare for trial.
The violations and mistreatment suffered by individuals at the hands of Bahraini authorities continues once they are transferred to Dry Dock Detention Center, with many detainees and ex-detainees having reported to ADHRB that various issues of overcrowding, medical negligence, and lack of sanitation are prevalent. Though cells are supposed to hold a maximum of 12 inmates, there are at times up to 22 inmates in the cell. These inmates belong to diverse nationalities and are accused of different charges, creating an overcrowded environment where political detainees are held with detainees accused of serious criminal offenses. During the COVID-19 outbreaks, this overcrowding led to the rapid spread of the virus in the cells, as detainees were unable to maintain social distancing amidst the inaccessibility of sanitary products. Furthermore, inmates had not received adequate protection from infection, being given only one mask per week. Additionally, as a further consequence of the overcrowding, there are not enough beds for all the inmates and those bed frames that are accessible are worn out or broken. Furthermore, new detainees are not given new bed sheets, pillows, or blankets and are left to use unclean bedding which had been previously used by other inmates. This often leads to the spread of skin diseases and scabies amongst the detainees, which the administration attempts to manage by isolating infected detainees as opposed to providing appropriate medical treatment and improving sanitary conditions. Hasan Hameed Meshaimea, who had caught scabies during his year in Dry Dock Detention Center after his arrest in October 2020, was placed in solitary confinement for a week on two separate occasions.
Detainees with medical conditions are not taken to their scheduled medical appointments despite efforts by their families and promises from the administration. Furthermore, the administration has refused to provide detainees, namely Mohamed Sarhan and Abduljabbar Mohamed, with their medication, under the guise that they are unavailable or too expensive. However, the administration has also prevented their families from providing the medication themselves.
The bathroom, which all the cellmates share, does not have proper ventilation, and some are infested with insects and rodents. Detainees are responsible to buy sanitary products from the canteen with money provided by their families, but they face several issues hindering their access to these products; the administration sometimes refuses money from the families, only provide sanitary products to the detainees after a lengthy delay, prevents detainees from going to the canteen, or fails to make sanitary products available for sale at the canteen.
When it comes to religious freedoms, detainees are unable to perform prayer and religious rituals for a number of reasons. Since there are no windows in these cells, detainees have no indication of prayer time from sunlight, nor do they receive an answer from prison authorities when inquire about the prayer time. Moreover, detainees are not given prayer mats, and there is only one worn out Quran shared amongst the ten cells of the building. Additionally, the administration has prohibited collective rituals, threatening collective punishment.
Finally, there have been instances of officers harassing and even assaulting detainees. Hasan Meshaimea reported that guards would enter the cell at midnight, disturb the detainees, and violently search the cell. In addition to this, Faris Salman had been beaten and had his head shaved against his will.
Bahrain’s arbitrary detention of individuals, warrantless arrests, and torture during interrogation constitutes a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as the Convention Against Torture (CAT), both of which Bahrain is party to. Moreover, the conditions and practices set in place by the Dry Dock Detention Center administration violate basic rights and freedoms, such as the right to physical and mental health, the right to freedom of religion, the right to protection from torture, as well as the standards for treatment of prisoners. The insufficiency of beds and lack of clean bedding, medical services, and religious books are all in violation of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Mandela Rules. Further, the victims’ mistreatment and denial of access to their lawyers at Dry Dock violates the body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment. ADHRB condemns Bahrain’s targeting of its citizens and the violation of their rights during their arrest and detention. Not only do these abuses constitute a contravention of international human rights laws, but they also infringe on an individual’s right to a fair trial.
Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB, commented: “Bahrain has displayed a blatant disregard for international law and for the conduct of a responsible member of the international community, by its consistent violation of the rights of Bahrainis from the moment they are arrested until the moment of their imprisonment. Widespread arrest campaigns and inconsistent durations of pre-trial detention have negatively impacted the lives of many, even if they are eventually released. Bahrain must uphold its human rights obligations in treating pre-trial detention as a means of last resort”.