Profile in Persecution: Khalil Ebrahim Sabah

Khalil Ebrahim Sabah, an elementary student who suffers from a severe learning disability, was arrested in October 2022 for burning an electoral tent. He has been subjected to multiple human rights violations, including torture and unfair trial, and was charged in the cases of arson and another case. He is currently serving his sentence at New Dry Dock Prison for minors.

On Sunday, 30 October 2022, at 1:00 A.M, Khalil was arrested from the town of Aali, on the same day of the incident of the burning of an electoral tent. One of the candidate’s sons, Naief Hamoud Abdulla, chased Khalil and Mohamed Jasem, another individual accused in the case, and caught them both, leading them back to the tent. He called the police to inform them about the incident. The candidate’s son beat Khalil and the rest of the youths accused in the arson so they would confess to committing the crime. After that, some police officers arrived and severely beat the boys again so they would confess and inform on others who were involved. They led the boys back to Khalil’s car and they confiscated six cell phones that belonged to Khalil and his friends, a bag containing clothes, a petrol bottle, and a veil and mask. Then, they confiscated Khalil’s car and Husain Matar’s car; Husain is another youth accused and arrested in this case. The officers arrested Khalil and his friends without an arrest warrant.

Later on, police officers called Khalil’s family asking them to deliver some clothes to Khalil at the police station. At first, his mother thought he was arrested because of an overtaking or traffic accident. She asked them about the reason behind his arrest to make sure but they did not answer her. However, when she went to the police station to deliver the clothes, officers allowed her to see Khalil, so she was reassured. An officer told her that everything would be fine since Khalil confessed from the beginning, but he did not say why Khalil was arrested in the first place and what he confessed about. When she saw him, he seemed to be tired and his face looked pale, which indicated that he was subjected to torture. Indeed, during his stay at the police station, Khalil was subjected to torture in order to extract a confession which was used against him in trial.

On Monday morning, on 31 October 2022, Khalil called his family informing his mother that the owner of the electoral tent came and dropped the case but not officially. He was also presented before the Public Prosecution Office for the first time that day. On the next day, he called again informing his mother that he was brought before the Public Prosecution Office for the second time and that they interrogated him about the contents of his phone. He also asked his family to appoint him a lawyer, but due to the family’s financial inability, they did not assign him a lawyer. As a result, he was interrogated without the presence of a lawyer and did not have adequate time and facilities to prepare for trial, nor was he able to present and challenge evidence presented against him in trial. On 16 January 2023, he was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 300,000 Bahraini Dinar in the case of arson and violation of the election procedures law. He was also fined 100 Bahraini Dinar in the another case .

Prior to the incident, Khalil’s family had noticed that he was academically delayed and presented signs of age regression (his actions and behavior appear to be younger than his actual physical age); they presented him to a psychiatrist to see if he suffers from any psychological or mental disorder. He was diagnosed by specialists and the family was given a psychiatric medical report that states that Khalil has marginal intelligence and severe learning difficulties, and help should be provided to him as much as possible. He could not continue with his studies due to his disability, and he only completed his first semester of the third preparatory stage.

Khalil’s warrantless and arbitrary arrest, 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. As such, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release Khalil, who was not provided with a fair trial and due process rights because of his financial inability to appoint a lawyer and to investigate the allegations of torture and ill treatment and hold perpetrators accountable. Furthermore, ADHRB calls on the Bahraini authorities to provide Khalil with access to health services and the needed help due to his mental condition that requires him to be provided with as much help as possible.