Profile in Persecution: Hasan Fadhel Al-Bahhar

Hasan Fadhel Al-Bahhar is a Bahraini youth who is currently serving his alternative punishment and is under house arrest. Despite being a minor, he was arbitrarily arrested, interrogated alone, and subjected to multiple human rights violations, including torture and unfair trial. He was recently charged in the case of burning an electoral site and sentenced to three years in prison.

Authorities have been monitoring Hasan ever since he was 13 years old, and he was constantly summoned to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) where they would ask him about his friends, mainly including a man named Kameel Jumaa. They would beat and threaten him during his questioning and force him to sign papers without knowing their content because he has difficulties reading. In 2019, when Hasan was 14 years old, he was summoned to Sitra Police Station and offered to work as an informant. An officer even tried to give him money, but Hasan refused. After a while, Hasan’s father was summoned to the police station and officers made him sign some papers. Following these events, his parents were constantly questioned by the Ministry of Interior about Hasan. A few days later, Hasan received a call from the ministry and they told him to consider himself already imprisoned and that they will not leave him alone. Hasan would constantly be contacted by officers at random hours of the day – for example, at 2:00 AM when he was asleep, or when he was at school. They asked him about his wanted friends. Hasan lived in fear, worry, and danger, and could not sleep at his house, at times going to sleep at his grandfather or aunt’s house. Moreover, Hasan failed his exams because he stopped going to school. He went through hard times with his family because of the constant fear and worry of getting arrested.

On 3 August 2020, Hasan was arrested for burning a foreign worker’s house. Security officers arrested Hasan on the streets and took him from the car that he was in. They beat him until he could not stand anymore, loaded him into the bus, and blindfolded and handcuffed him from behind. They asked him about the other individuals accused in the case, but he told them that he did not know their whereabouts. They took him to the CID, and beat him there before they started interrogating him. He was taken to Al-Qadibiya station three days later, where he was beaten again. Hasan was transferred to Al-Qalaa hospital, and he was warned not to say a word about the beatings to which he was subjected. Four security officers entered the doctor’s office with him, and once the doctor asked if he had been tortured, one of the officers looked straight at Hasan, who then said that no one had beaten him. He was then transferred back to the CID where he was subjected to further beatings. He was not able to breathe at the end and cried. Hasan confessed to the charges because he was severely beaten anytime he denied them. He told the judge that he was threatened and beaten into confessing.

Eventually, two of his friends were caught, and the three youths were brought back to the CID, where they were tortured for two days. They were questioned about their participation in peaceful demonstrations as well as the burning of the foreign worker’s house. They were also asked to identify all the individuals that were with them. The detective tried to make Hasan confess and recognize a few persons by stating their names, but Hasan denied knowing them. Hasan was therefore accused of incitement. The detective threatened him that he would not let him see the sun again if he did not confess, and beat him until he could not see with his left eye. During the entire period of the interrogation, Hasan was questioned without a lawyer or a guardian despite being a minor.

On 10 December 2020, Hasan was sentenced to three years of imprisonment. He served two years, then he was released under alternative sentencing. He was summoned two weeks after his release and given a choice between working and wearing an ankle bracelet. Hasan chose working and spent his alternative punishment working without getting paid. However, he was not provided with a suitable working environment and was treated badly. Police patrols were always checking on him and an officer once treated him in a way that degraded his dignity, as he yelled and pushed him in an offensive way. Moreover, he was not guaranteed his right to return to school under the right guidance. When the school year started, authorities summoned Hasan and told him that, in order to continue his education, he should hand them his schedule so they would decrease his working hours by increasing the days of his alternative sentence instead. This prolonged his punishment by one year.  Authorities offered him again to opt for the ankle bracelet instead of working but Hasan refused once again and asked the Ministry of Education to let him be homeschooled and only attend school for exams.

On Thursday, 3 November 2022, while still serving his alternative sentence, Hasan was summoned alone to Al-Khamis (A) police station. He was severely beaten by officers in civilian clothing and was accused of burning an electoral tent. He was interrogated for three days without the presence of his lawyer or a guardian, during which he was deprived of sleep and prohibited from praying. They gave him food once a day and he was not allowed to use the restroom when he needed to do so. He was also not allowed to call his family, except once after his arrest to inform them about the arrest. He spent his first day at Al-Khamis station and was transferred on the next day to Hamad Town police station Roundabout 17.

His father and brother were later interrogated, and Hasan was told to confess in front of them or he would be treated violently, but he refused. He then asked the officer to meet with the other individuals accused in the case, but his request was denied. A female officer then came in to fill the report and tried to get him to confess. Hasan denied the allegation again. After that, a higher ranking officer came and asked the officer who was responsible for the interrogation why Hasan was not handcuffed. Another officer justified that Hasan was a minor, but the higher rank officer handcuffed him anyway. And even though Hasan is a minor, they did not file a report from a social worker like they usually do with minors.

On 5 November 2022, he was presented to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) where the attorney tried to convince him to confess, but Hasan refused. Another accused individual in this case stated that Hasan is innocent and is not related to this case at all. He was released that same day, on an alternative sentencing, which was “home arrest”. He could not leave his house unless to attend court sessions or when he’s summoned. Because of that, his family asked for permission from the alternative punishment office to let him skip work.

On 16 January 2023, the court sentenced Hasan, who had not completed his alternative sentence, to another three years in prison and a fine of 300,000 Bahraini Dinar. Hasan’s arrests, torture and unfair trial go against the Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), both of which Bahrain is party to. Additionally, his interrogation without a guardian or a lawyer also constitutes a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. As such, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release Hasan and investigate the allegations of torture and ill treatment during his interrogation and to hold perpetrators accountable. Furthermore, ADHRB calls on the Bahraini government to uphold its responsibilities towards minors and abide by international law and conventions.