Profile in Persecution: Ali Husain AlTaraifi

Ali was an 18-year-old high school student at Jidhafs Secondary Industrial School for Boys when he was arrested on 13 November 2019. Additionally, he is a former volleyball player at the Bani Jamra Club. Ali had been arrested several times, occasionally multiple times in a single day, during his minor years. During his last detention, he endured torture, enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, sect-based insults, deprivation from practicing his religious rituals, reprisal, blackmail, and denial of contact with his family. Ali was sentenced in absentia to ten years in prison in an unfair mass trial with charges of a political background. Currently, he is serving his sentence at Jau Prison.

On 13 November 2019, at 9:10 p.m., the playground of Diraz Park was surrounded by masked officers in civilian clothing, along with jeeps containing riot police officers. They blocked the street and instilled fear among individuals present at the park. Officers arrested a group of young people playing football, including Ali, without presenting any arrest warrants. They beat him with wooden and metal objects and kicked him in the backyard of AlHelli Supermarket in Diraz. Later, Ali was taken back to Diraz Park, where he was subjected to further beatings. The officers demanded that Ali stage an attack on a jeep and a bus, but he refused, leading to more beatings and kicks. Subsequently, Ali was taken to the Cavalry Police Station in Budaiya (Ministry of Interior, Cavalry Unit), where military forces and officers in civilian clothing continued to beat and kick him. He was then taken to the backyard of the Cavalry Police Station, where a group of police dogs attacked him and other detainees. Finally, Ali was taken to Budaiya Police Station. On 14 November 2019, at 9:00 AM, he was transferred to AlQala’a Hospital for a medical examination and then to Building 15 for investigations at Jau Prison.

Ali’s family became aware of his arrest when they received a call from an individual who witnessed the arrest and the subsequent transfer of Ali to Budaiya Police Station. Upon receiving this information, the family went to the police station with the hope of understanding the reason behind his arrest. However, they were initially informed that he was not present at the station. Unconvinced, the family persisted and chose to wait in front of the station. Ali’s father informed the officers that they had been misled in a previous instance regarding their son’s arrest.

On 14 and 15 November 2019, Ali made two phone calls to his family from two different numbers, each lasting no more than a second. He sounded tired and mentioned that he was fine and that he was located at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). However, Ali’s family, suspecting he was at the Investigations Building in Jau Prison (Building 15), did not receive any official declaration confirming his location.

Initially, Ali was unaware of the charges against him but was subjected to torture during interrogations to force him to confess to terrorist acts. Officers from the Cavalry Police Station and Jau Prison tortured Ali for nine days, interrogating him for approximately 18 hours each day. He was denied sleep for more than a few hours, allowed to sit for only a few minutes, and forced to stand handcuffed from the back with metal chains. Ali endured electric shocks, beatings, kicks, and death threats. Officers also threatened his family and insulted him based on his Shia sect, as well as prominent religious figures. Ali was also prohibited from freely practicing his religious rituals. He managed to contact his family on 26 November for half an hour. During interrogations, officers asked Ali about his links with some people and charged him with assaulting a jeep and a bus, among other charges. Ali refused to confess, but he was forced to sign a paper from the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) without knowing its contents. He was prohibited from contacting or seeing his lawyer during interrogations.

Ali showed signs of beatings on his waist and other signs resulting from electric shocks, and he was unable to urinate. He initiated a hunger strike on 8 April 2020, protesting the fabricated charges and the torture he endured. After a week, Ali ended his hunger strike in the absence of a response from the authorities.

Ali had previously experienced multiple arrests when he was a minor. On 13 February 2014, at the age of 12, he was arrested and subjected to severe beatings by the police. Subsequently, on 14 April 2018, during his final exams period, Ali was detained for six months but was released without facing trial. Following this arrest, he received numerous threats from unidentified individuals. Civilian vehicles would often patrol around Ali’s residence and the routes he frequented, engaging in phone conversations with him. These individuals threatened to arrest him and fabricate serious charges if he refused to cooperate as an informant, a proposition Ali rejected. Ali’s father was also arrested, and he was threatened with Ali’s arrest. The perpetrators claimed they could fabricate charges against Ali if his father did not confess, a threat that materialized on 13 November 2019.

On 21 November 2019, Ali was presented before the PPO, and his lawyer was denied access to attend. The PPO decided to detain him for 60 days in pre-trial detention at the Dry Dock Detention Center. Subsequently, on 16 January 2020, the PPO, in the presence of Ali and his lawyer, opted to extend his pre-trial detention for an additional 60 days. On 18 March 2020, the pre-trial period was once again extended, this time without the presence of Ali or his lawyer. On the morning of 21 November 2019, Ali was initially at the PPO, then transferred to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and AlQala’a Hospital. Finally, during the night, he was moved to the Dry Dock Detention Center.  His lawyer was only present once, at the PPO during the second hearing on 16 January 2020. Ali was able to contact his lawyer about a month after being transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center.

The judge brought multiple charges against Ali, including joining a terrorist cell belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) in Iran; engaging in training and armament, participating in illegal assembly, and other offenses. Despite Ali’s explanation to the judge that he had been subjected to torture and coerced into signing papers without awareness of their content, along with his plea to be released and tried under the principles of a fair trial, the judge opted to extend the period of Ali’s pre-trial detention by an additional 30 days.

On 3 November 2020, the First High Criminal Court convicted Ali in absentia as part of a mass trial that included 52 defendants, which lacked the minimum conditions for a fair trial. The charges against him included 1) joining a terrorist group called “the Bahraini Hezbollah”, 2) intentionally setting a bus on fire and breaking its windows, and 3) possessing Molotov cocktails with others. Ali received a ten-year prison sentence. Importantly, Ali was unaware that the trial was taking place, and he learned about the ruling against him through a later phone call with his family. Subsequently, he appealed the decision, but the Court of Appeal rejected the appeal on 11 April 2021. The Court of Cassation also upheld the ruling on 12 July 2021. 

On 25 September 2021, a day before the broadcast of a television report highlighting violations against children detained in the Dry Dock Detention Center, an officer, in collaboration with a crew from the security media, blackmailed prisoners within the young convicts’ section, which included Ali. They promised to release them under the condition that they assert they are experiencing very normal prison conditions. Despite a significant number of prisoners refusing to comply with this coerced narrative, the media crew proceeded to film the prisoners playing football and obtained statements from some of them. This was an attempt to whitewash the prison’s image and discredit the information presented in the report about violations, claiming it to be incorrect.

On 15 June 2022, Ali and three of his fellow young convicts complained about the intense heat inside their cell, as the air conditioning had been deliberately turned off for them. In response, they knocked on the cell door, requesting to have the air conditioning turned on. Instead of addressing their concerns, the officers at the Dry Dock Detention Center assaulted them and used pepper spray on their faces. Following this incident, the prison administration transferred them to solitary confinement, where they were denied the right to contact their families for more than a week. 

During 2023, Ali faced degrading inspections and mistreatment from some officers at Jau Prison, including Officer Hisham AlZayani. Ali was admitted to Salmaniya Hospital, where he forcibly disappeared from his family, who only learned about his transfer two days later. He was also denied contact throughout the year as a collective punishment imposed on him and several other prisoners.

In November 2023, Ali’s family requested the PPO to appoint a lawyer for him, aiming to retry him before the Children Restorative Justice Court under the Restorative Justice Law for Children of 2021. However, the PPO did not respond to their request, even though most of the charges brought against him were alleged to have occurred when he was a minor.

Ali’s arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, unfair trial, solitary confinement, insult based on his sect, deprivation of his right to perform religious rituals, reprisal, extortion, humiliating inspections, and denial of his right to contact his family violate the Bahraini Constitution as well as international obligations to which Bahrain is a party. These treaties include the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Ali’s arbitrary detention several times previously as a minor and his exposure to torture, blackmail, threats, and insults, in addition to depriving him of his right to a fair retrial before the Children’s Court – given that most of the crimes he was convicted of allegedly occurred when he was a child – is considered a clear violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Bahrain is a party. Given the absence of an arrest warrant and Ali’s conviction in absentia in a mass trial lacking the minimum standards for a fair trial and relying on false confessions extracted under torture, it can be concluded that he is arbitrarily detained by the Bahraini authorities.

Therefore, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities to fulfill their human rights obligations by immediately and unconditionally releasing Ali. ADHRB urges the Bahraini government to investigate all allegations of arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, torture, sect-based insults, deprivation of his right to perform his religious rituals, reprisal, blackmail, degrading inspections, and denial of the right to contact his family, to ensure accountability for those responsible. Furthermore, ADHRB calls on Bahrain to compensate Ali for all the violations he endured in prison, including health problems resulting from the torture he suffered, or at the very least, to conduct a fair retrial for him under the Restorative Justice Law for Children, leading to his release.