The Deep Rooted Culture of Impunity Rashid bin Abdulla: The Face of Impunity in Bahrain

 Coinciding with the anniversary of the outbreak of the democratic movement in Bahrain on 14 February 2011, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) is launching a campaign entitled “Prosecute Him,” in which it directly condemns the Minister of Interior, Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, as the main person responsible for the horrific violations of human rights towards political prisoners. We do this by highlighting the cases of six political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, including opposition leaders. They are the most prominent examples among hundreds of Bahraini victims who were subjected to the worst types of torture, unfair trial procedures, and other horrific violations that the United Nations Special Procedures offices considered potentially amounting to crimes against humanity, all under the supervision and approval and even, sometimes, in the presence of the Minister of Interior.

The six political prisoners are: human rights defender Dr. Abduljalil AlSingace, prominent opposition leader Mr. Hasan Mushaima, human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq Society Shaikh Ali Salman, human rights activist Naji Fateel, and prisoner of conscience Ali Hasan AlAradi.

The slogan of the campaign, “Prosecute Him,” stems from our explicit demands directed at the international community:

  • To exert pressure to dismiss the Minister of Interior, Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, and to end the policy of impunity;
  • That European countries and the United States take a decision to ban him from traveling to visit their countries;
  • That the American and European diplomatic corps present in Bahrain sever diplomatic ties with the Minister of Interior;
  • That he be punished under the “Magnitsky” law applied by the United States of America, as well as similar laws adopted by the United Kingdom, the European Union, and other countries, against perpetrators of crimes that violate human rights, similar to the sanctions imposed by the United States against 19 Saudi individuals in 2018 and 2021 for their involvement in the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Magnitsky Act includes, at a minimum, the following offenses: extrajudicial killings, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges or trial, causing the disappearance of persons through abduction and secret detention, and other forms of gross deprivation of persons of the right to life, liberty or security. It also includes acts of physical violence against victims, such as rape, sexual violence, human trafficking, abduction, enforced disappearance and other forms of arbitrary detention.
  • That he be punished under “universal jurisdiction” that allows a number of countries that apply it, including the United Kingdom, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and others, to prosecute government officials and individuals involved in crimes of torture in another country if a complaint is filed against them. On 26 November 2018, Human Rights Watch submitted a request to an Argentine federal prosecutor, including its conclusions about alleged violations of international law committed during the war on Yemen, for which it held Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman criminally responsible as Minister of Defense. The request also highlights his involvement in serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Saudi nationals, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Thus, on that day, the Argentine judicial authorities began considering a warrant against Mohammed bin Salman, and that was in conjunction with his visit to Argentina to attend the G20 summit on 30 November 2018. The German, Swedish and Belgian authorities have also recently conducted trials against government officials from Asian countries after accusing them of torture crimes in their countries, and serious crimes against international law, under the application of universal jurisdiction by the judiciary in the aforementioned European countries, where they have the right to consider crimes against humanity regardless of where they occurred.
  • That he be punished in accordance with the EU global human rights sanctions regime, which targets individuals and bodies responsible for, or involved in, gross violations or abuses of human rights, as well as individuals and bodies associated with them, such as crimes of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It can also target governmental and non-governmental entities. Thus, the perpetrators and their accomplices can be banned from entering the EU, their assets in the EU will be frozen, and people in the EU will be prohibited from providing them with any funds and economic resources.

The organization received testimonies from political prisoners and human rights defenders about the participation and supervision of the Minister of Interior in various human rights violations, including their torture in his prisons. The organization also received testimony that he personally interrogated and tortured other prisoners:

  • Dr. Abduljalil AlSingace

Dr. al-Singace is a professor with a P.H.D. in mechanical engineering, and a prominent human rights advocate who was arrested and held in solitary confinement in 2009, then released after international pressure. He was the first to document the cases of prisoners of conscience and send letters to the UN Human Rights Council mechanisms, as well as appeal to Western politicians regarding the situation in Bahrain.

He was arrested for the second time on 17 March 2011 without a judicial warrant by forces affiliated with the Ministry of Interior, who broke into his house and entered his bedroom. A gun was pointed at his head and he was forced onto the ground.

In al-Qurain prison, Dr. al-Singace was tortured on a daily basis. He was not allowed to bathe or change his clothes for more than 10 days, and was forced to sleep on the ground in the cold weather while the air conditioning would be turned on the entire time. He was also deprived of treatment and health supplies. Moreover, he was deprived of his eye glasses and crutches for the entire period of his detention in his cell, and was given crutches only when he was taken to investigations after he would be blindfolded and hooded.

During the interrogation, he was beaten, threatened, sexually assaulted, and beaten with batons, especially on his head. For a period of two weeks, Dr. al-Singace was unable to contact his family or his lawyer, who did not know his whereabouts, thereby constituting an enforced disappearance. He was unable to meet with his lawyer, either before or after the sessions of his trial.

On 22 June 2011, the Military Court sentenced Dr. al-Singace to life imprisonment on the charge of attempting to overthrow the government. His sentence was upheld and he was transferred to Jau Prison. The prison authorities continued to deny him adequate medical care, which caused a significant deterioration in his health.

On July 8, 2021, Dr. al-Singace went on a hunger strike, which he is still continuing to this day, in protest against the degrading treatment he was subjected to in prison. Such treatment included the officer’s confiscation of his book, which he had spent four years writing and which covers Bahraini culture and language. The officer also refused to respond to Dr. al-Singace’s requests to make phone calls and meet urgent needs.

Dr. al-Singace was transferred to al-Qalaa Hospital on 18 July 2021, after his condition had significantly deteriorated. On 30 July 2021, he was transferred to Kanoo Medical Center, and his condition is being monitored there. However, visits by his doctor have recently decreased, as he is only seen after his health deteriorates. Dr. al-Singace suffers from post-polio and sickle cell anemia, with symptoms including chronic pain, numbness of the extremities, and shortness of breath. His health is deteriorating, exacerbated by his previous conditions. He has lost over 20 kilograms and his blood sugar level has dropped, yet the authorities are not providing him with treatment nor sharing the MRI images which he had done months prior. He also suffers from blurred vision, but he has not received any response to his requests to undergo an eye test.

  • Mr. Hasan Mushaima

Mr. Hasan Mushaima was a Bahraini political activist and Secretary-General of the Al-Haq Movement. He was arrested on 17 March 2011 because of his activism and his role in the democratic movement in 2011. At exactly 2:00 AM, his sons and daughters were awakened after they heard the continuous ringing of the doorbell. He was told that security forces were surrounding the house, and when he opened the door and asked if they had a court order or an arrest warrant, they did not answer. After that, dozens of masked security forces entered the house and started searching it. They confiscated a laptop and a portable camera, handcuffed him, and took him in their vehicle to the Safra area.

After his arrest, the officers started beating him, insulting him, and insulting his sect. He was taken to al-Qurain prison where he was beaten and punched all over his body, especially on his head and ears, and was spat on and pushed until he fell and was injured. He was then taken to solitary confinement, where a masked man poured cold water on him from head to toe when he lay on the bed while the air conditioner was on, noting that the weather during that period was very cold in Bahrain.

He was not allowed to meet with his lawyer throughout the interrogation. He was later sentenced to 25 years in prison due to his activity in the democratic movement. While serving his sentence in Jau Prison, he was subjected to various forms of violations and ill treatment, which included new humiliating policies such as shackling the wrists and ankles when visiting the prison clinic and during family visits.

Mr. Mushaima was constantly denied medication and regular check-ups. He suffers from various diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, prostate issues, ear infection and gout. He is also in cancer remission and needs regular check-ups every six months. However, the authorities have often ignored the necessity of these tests, and even when these tests are done, their results are delayed for a long time.

Moreover, Mr. Mushaima was never allowed to consult a specialist, his diabetes and blood pressure medications are not provided regularly, and painkillers and prescription medications are not adjusted to suit his needs.

On 19 October 2020, Mushaima was transferred from Jau Prison to the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital after he experienced shortness of breath as a result of his blood pressure. The doctors requested that he had to be seen by a specialist, but the authorities ignored this request and did not schedule an appointment.

After that, his health deteriorated again, and he was transferred again on 11 November 2020 to the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital, and put on an emergency respirator. Doctors once more requested that he be examined by a specialist, and after five days, the specialist determined that the cause of his high blood pressure and shortness of breath was a weak heart.

He was transferred to building 10 in March 2021 and he was isolated there under the pretext of receiving care. In May 2021, his health deteriorated significantly, and he developed new symptoms due to diabetes, including abnormal swelling in his feet with the appearance of black spots, large swelling in his leg, severe knee pain, and difficulty moving. He was transferred back to the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital where he was prescribed medication, and the doctors stated that his condition required regular follow-up. The Ministry of Health issued a false statement stating that Mr. Mushaima’s condition is stable and being monitored.

In July 2021, Mushaima’s health deteriorated and he was moved to Kanoo Medical Center, where he remains. His tests showed extremely high blood sugar and blood pressure levels. He also suffers from undetermined damage to his kidneys and stomach, a cyst on his eye, and a heart muscle problem. However, he did not receive any treatment, and his condition worsened due to the lack of movement and the unsuitable food that lacked vegetables and nutritional value.

In March 2022, an argument broke out between Mushaima and the police at Kanoo Medical Center, and as a result Mushaima filed a complaint. Mr. Mushaima’s extended stay at the medical center was used as an excuse to isolate him rather than provide the medical care he needed. He described his stay there as “solitary confinement” as he was denied the right to contact his family, and he was demanding his return to Jau Prison.

  • Abdulhadi al-Khawaja 

The human rights advocate Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is also of Danish nationality, was arrested on April 8, 2011 for his participation in the democratic movement in February 2011. Around 20 masked officers in civilian clothing attacked al-Khawaja and beat him after breaking into his daughter’s house. They dragged him by his neck and caused several injuries, leaving behind a lot of blood and arresting other family members.

After being arrested, Mr. al-Khawaja was hit in his face in a manner that broke his jaw. He was brought to Bahrain Defence Force Hospital where he had a major surgery.

Mr. al-Khawaja was transferred to Al-Qurain prison and was detained in solitary confinement for two months. The officers beat him regularly only eight days after his surgery. He went on a hunger strike to protest, and was later threatened with forced feeding via nasogastric tube. Masked officers with civilian clothing beat him before and after investigations, so he started to lose feeling in a part of his face.

On June 22, 2011, the court accused Mr. al-Khawaja of “leading a terrorist organization”, “trying to overturn the government by force and associating with a terrorist organization that works for a foreign country”, and “raising funds for a terrorist group”, and sentenced him to a life imprisonment.

In November 2017, Mr. al-Khawaja complained and sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior regarding the unjust actions of officers in Jau prison, including the confiscation of his books, documents, and pens. The Ministry ignored the letter, and retaliated by depriving him of his right to phone calls until December 17, 2017.

Mr. al–Khawaja was deprived of proper medical care in Jau prison, although his health was deteriorating. His repeated hunger strikes in protest of his prison conditions led to severe weight loss and a spinal cord infection, and he stated that he cannot sleep on his back for a long time because of the severe pain.

He also had several health complications, including visual impairment that may lead to blindness.

In November 2022, Mr. al-Khawaja was tried and sentenced again under four different accusations related to his complaints about cruel situations in the prison. The first accusation is related to an incident that took place in November 2021, when the authorities denied his right to speak to his daughters. The second accusation involves insulting a public officer criticizing a foreign country (Israel) in March 2022 when al- Khawaja led a peaceful protest inside the prison. The third accusation is the instigation to overturn the government, and is related to an incident in July 2022 when al- Khawaja had a medical appointment for his back pain. The authorities insisted to handcuff his hands and feet and to transfer him in a small bus without ventilation, and, as a result, Mr. al- Khawaja started to protest against the Ministry of Interior for his mistreatment. The fourth accusation is related to the protests against mistreatment of another prisoner.

  • Shaikh Ali Salman

Sheikh Ali Salman was the Secretary General of al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, which was an opposing political movement that represented the largest parliamentary bloc in the last free elections prior to the protest movement in Bahrain. Bahraini authorities dissolved it in 2016.

On December 28, 2014, Sheikh Salman was arrested a day after receiving a summons from the Ministry of Interior. The arrest took place two days after Al-Sheikh Salman had been re-elected as the Secretary General of the al-Wefaq Society.

In May 5, 2015, Sheikh Salman was officially accused of instigating to change the regime through non-peaceful means, instigating a part of the society against the other, and instigating people to break the laws and insult the Ministry of Interior.

On January 6, 2015, the sentence of Sheikh Salman was extended, and during this sentence the public prosecutor interrogated him. Some of the interrogations took about 13 hours, and they did not provide his lawyer with copies of interrogation records.

Sheikh Salman and his legal representatives did not get any chance to examine the recorded evidence in the general court, including audio and visual recordings of the general speech and TV interviews. The public prosecutor also issued general statements and false information that condemned Sheikh Salman. The legal representatives of Sheikh Salman submitted an application for the attorney general and the public prosecutor to release him until the date of his trial, but the application was rejected without any reason.

The court refused to play video recordings of Sheikh Salman’s public speeches, although they were proof against the accusations against him. His lawyers were interrupted during the trial, and they were subjected to inspections. Sheikh Salman requested to speak to the court directly regarding the accusations against him during the last trial, and, while the court provided him this right, it immediately prevented him from continuing his words after saying that the accusations against him are related to a public movement that seeks democracy in Bahrain.

On June 16, 2015, ASheikh Salman was accused of several charges including hate-speech, disturbing public order and peace, instigating non-compliance with the law, and insulting the Minister of Interior. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

In November 2017, as his sentence was nearing its end, Sheikh Salman was accused of “conspiring with Qatar” during the democratic movement in 2011. After a deeply unfair trial, Sheikh Salman was sentenced to life imprisonment.

  •  Naji Fateel

Before his arrest, Naji Fateel was a member in Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, and he was a human rights activist who called for documenting human rights violations and promoting people to form vigilance committees.

Fateel was arrested on May 2, 2013. During his arrest, officers beat him in front of his family, injuring his back. It was thought that the reason for arresting him was his human rights advocacy, especially that he participated in the 22nd session of Human Rights Council in March 2013.

Fateel was transferred to the Criminal Investigation Directorate, where he remained in incommunicado detention and was beaten for two days. He stated that he was subjected to physiological and psychological torture including beating, kicking, and punching all over his body, especially his reproductive organs. He was forced to stand for a long time and was suspended from the roof, when the officers refused the confessions he said they hit him with a plastic hose on his back. They also threatened to arrest his wife and daughter, and they did not allow him to eat, sleep, sit, or pray. He was subjected to all kinds of torture and he passed out after requesting a lawyer on several occasions.

On September 29, 2013, he was sentenced to prison for 15 years with another man and was accused of “participating with unknown individuals in an illegal movement that included five people to disrupt public security.” He was also accused of blocking roads. He was transferred to Jau prison and he is still detained until this day.

After the publishing photos on the internet of Naji Fateel wounded because of the torture, the Minister of Interior visited him on July 13, 2013. They published new photos of his back on the official website of the Ministry of Interior, claiming that they “refute the idea of torture”, but the truth is that they took these photos after two months when the torture marks had disappeared.

On the next day, criminal investigation officers visited him claiming that they belonged to the media department in the Ministry of Interior, and asked him to show his infections. He replied that those infections dated from two months prior, and they had almost disappeared after being cured with ointments.

On January 25, 2016, a judicial decision was issued regarding riots in Jau prison that took place on March 10, 2015. The mass trial of the 57 accused people resulted in a sentence for 15 years. The accusations against the victims, including Naji Fateel, were instigating riots, using violence against prison officers and preventing them from doing their jobs, attacking security guards using solid tools, and preventing anyone trying to quell riots. Fateel states that prison authorities did not provide him with the suitable medicines and they canceled several operations for his infections. He is also suffering from a high percentage of cholesterol and stomach ache because of the poor quality of the prison food.

  •  Ali Hasan Al- Aradi

Ali Hasan al-Aradi is an activist who participated in the democratic movement in 2011. Despite his young age, he was chased and threatened in order to stop his activities. He was a student of 17 years old when he was arrested on January 9, 2013. He was leaving school with his friend and they were taken to Al Hadd police department. The next day, the general prosecutor exonerated al-Aradi and his friend. His family stated that he was arrested twice before and was tortured. On May 16, 2013, civilian and military forces besieged a funeral Ali was attending in al-Muharraq and arrested him without having a Summon or saying the reason. They took him to al-Hadd police station, and on the same day the National Security Service assaulted his family’s house and the officers confiscated their electronic devices.

Al-Aradi was forcibly disappeared for two days after his arrest and his family knew nothing about him. Later, he was allowed to talk to his family to inform them that he was in the Criminal Investigation Department. He was interrogated for 15 days, and during that time, he was transferred to the al-Hadd police station, Sanaa station, al-Muharraq, and finally to Dry Dock detention center, where he was interrogated and subjected to physiological and psychological torture. They beat him and kicked him all over his body, and took off his clothes several times. As a result, he suffered from chronic headache, head bleeding, and some broken bones in his body and his leg.

On June 3, 2013, al-Aradi appeared in front of the public prosecutor for nine cases. Although he had been exonerated on June 17, 2013, authorities did not release him because he was detained for other cases. The overall issued cases for al-Aradi reached a combined sentence of five years and seven months because of illegal movements, assaults, and riots.

On June 3, 2016, 17 detained people escaped from Dry Dock including al-Aradi. Few hours after the escape, officers in civilian clothing followed him, arrested him, and beat him severely in a house in Bilad Al- Qadeem in which he was hiding.

During his second arrest on June 4, 2016, he was subjected to several methods of physiological and psychological torture and mistreatment before and after investigations by the Minister of Interior Rashid Abdulla al-Khalifa himself. He was blindfolded and was beaten, especially on his head and reproductive organs. His torturers used tools like batons and wooden bars to hit and kick him, he was forced to stand for a long time, and he was deprived from sleeping. He had to urinate on himself and his family was threatened.

As a result of that, al-Aradi’s right arm was broken, he lost the sense of hearing in his left ear, and he had swelling in his face. On April 12, 2018, the military court accused al-Aradi for escaping from Dry Dock and sentenced him to 10 years in central Jau prison, where he is detained nowadays.


The violations that Bahraini authorities have made under the supervision of the Minister of Interior against these political prisoners break their legal international commitments and contradict the Convention against Torture (CAT) agreement. Arbitrary arrests, torture, and violations those individuals were subjected to also violates article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In addition, the deliberate deprival of proper medication and health care is a violation of Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (OHCHR).

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) expresses its severe condemnation of these cruel practices that targeted the prisoners, under the supervision of the Minister of Interior, being the highest authority responsible of these institutions and the individuals who commit these violations. The Ministry of Interior has authority over all police officers, most security individuals including riot police, criminal investigations department, and prison administration. As a result, they should be accountable, from the top of the pyramid to the lowest employee, when the individuals of these institutions make severe violations in a systemic method as shown. Torturing prisoners to get confessions and obtaining vengeance from political prisoners through medical ignorance and other methods are human rights violations for which the Minister of Interior should be held to account.