Profile in Persecution: Husain Ali Al-Sahlawi (Updated)

Husain Ali Al-Sahlawi was a 26 year-old Bahraini bus driver at  a private company when he was arrested by Bahraini authorities in 2012  on fabricated charges and sentenced in absentia. He was subjected to multiple human rights violations during his arrest, trial, and imprisonment. He is currently serving the remainder of his sentence at Jau prison where he continues to face ill-treatment and negligence.

In March 2010, while Husain was leaving his grandmother’s house in Karzakkan, he was ambushed by Bahraini security forces and  wounded by three shotgun blasts. His father secured him transfer to the Salmaniya Medical Complex where he was in a critical condition. During his stay in the medical complex, security forces tortured him and denied him adequate treatment. They confined him to a hospital bed and refused to let him use the bathroom, forcing him  to urinate into a bottle.

After that, he was transferred to a military hospital with bullet shrapnel still in his jaw, and about 70 other pieces of shrapnel scattered all over his body. He was then transferred back  to the Central Investigation Department and detained pending investigation, where he was subjected to various means of torture and humiliation. After extracting the confessions, Hussain was released pending trial.

In February 2011, Hussein was convicted and sentenced in absentia in two separate cases. The first case was the burning of Karzakkan farms in which he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but after appeal, was reduced to 7 years. In the second case, he was charged with killing a policeman and was sentenced to 16 years in prison which was also reduced to 10 years after appeal. During this time, Hussain went into hiding until 23 May 2012, when he was arrested for a second time. 

On May 23, 2012, a large number of security and anti-riot vehicles surrounded a cafe in Roundabout 1, where Husain was with his friends, and arrested him after they publicly beat him. They denied his request to call his parents and inform them of his arrest. Additionally, they confiscated his car which contained all his personal papers and passport. They did not return any of his property or personal documents that they took at the time of his arrest to his family, despite the family’s repeated requests to return them. Husain was transferred to the Central Investigation Department (CID) in Adliya, then in the morning he was transferred to Jau Prison.

During his imprisonment, Husain was subjected to torture and beatings by prison officers. He was electrocuted, deprived of sleep, and subjected to verbal abuse. Authorities constantly insulted him, his religious sect, and his parents. In addition, Husain was again denied treatment for shotgun wounds and a scabies infection. 

On March 10, 2015, after the incident of the Jau Prisoners’ uprising  protesting  torture and ill-treatment happening at the prison, Husain was again subjected to more intense and continuous torture, especially after he was accused of killing a policeman, and sent to solitary confinement five times. Four months after the prison incident, he obtained permission for a family visit. However, his family was suffered  humiliation and degrading treatment by prison officials , as they were forced to strip naked and undergo full body searches. When his family met him, Husain was very thin and weak, and his features visibly changed.

During the last decade, from 2012 to 2022, Husain was subjected to many violations in Jau Prison. He was forced to sleep under the stairs and was not allowed to sleep in the cell. At other times, he was handcuffed to the prison door throughout the day. Moreover, officers would put him  cells with prisoners convicted of violent crimes like murder and rape and who did not speak or understand Arabic. Husain received verbal insults and death threats from prison guards and from  prisoners sentenced on charges relating to Al Qaeda and who are from foreign nationalities. He has stated in several communications that he is at risk of death due to the many threats directed at him, whether from prisoners or the prison police and even Ombudsman staff.

Because of his continuous demands for transfer, better treatment, and speaking up against verbal insults and threats, one of the guards filed a case against Hussain, and was charged in 2018 with assaulting a Pakistani policeman, which I added time to his sentence. He protested to the judge and complained that it was a false charge. Currently, Husain is still suffering from constant harassment on several levels: whether on the health or personal level, and depriving him of his clothes and cleaning tools, which are confiscated. In 2021, Husain was infected with Covid-19, which led to infections in the sinuses and chest. This caused difficulty in breathing, and he is still suffering from shortness of breath and suffocation until now.

Husain stated in May 2022 that medical negligence practiced by authorities against him and the rest of the prisoners still exists. He described this as a slow death policy used by the Jau Prison administration. He is currently suffering from swelling and increasing redness in the eye and poor vision. There is also broken cartilage that prevents him from speaking and eating because his nose was previously broken, and the condition of his tongue allows bacteria to enter into his throat and cavity. For these reasons, Husain needs immediate operations in his eyes, nose, and mouth. He also needs to take medications, but the prison administration has refused to give him the necessary treatment, and to schedule appointments for him to perform urgent operations so far. He is also forbidden from family visits.

During the years 2017 and 2018, Husain’s family submitted several complaints to the Ombudsman, all of them about torture, ill-treatment, and his lack of access to appropriate health care, but  to no avail. On Monday, 23 April, 2018, after his parents called the Ombudsman, an employee came to Husain, did not ask any questions but told him to sign a paper. When Hussein asked to see it before signing, the employee told him that it was the sentence sheet issued by the military court, so he signed it. His situation did not improve, but rather worsened, and he is constantly threatened with death by Prison officers if his family continues to contact and send complaints to the Ombudsman. 

Husain’s arbitrary detention, torture and unfair trial are a violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a party. Moreover, the medical neglect he is subjected to is in violation of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, endorsed by the United Nations. As such, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Hussain, and to impartially investigate his torture to hold the perpetrators to account, and unconditionally release all other political prisoners. ADHRB also calls on Bahrain to end the practice of medical negligence and provide all prisoners, including Husain with the required and adequate medical treatment.