Profile in Persecution: Mohamed AbdulJabbar Sarhan

Updated: Mohamed AbdulJabbar Sarhan was a 20-year-old first-year university student at the University of Bahrain when Bahraini authorities arbitrarily arrested him on 22 January 2024. During his detention, he was subjected to torture, sexual assault, solitary confinement, an unfair trial based on confessions extracted under torture, medical neglect, and deprivation of communication with his family. Additionally, he was denied access to his attorney during the interrogation and trial period. He is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence in Jau Prison. On 30 August 2023, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published an opinion regarding the arbitrary detention of six Bahraini nationals, including Mohamed. In its opinion, the Working Group deemed their detention arbitrary and demanded their immediate and unconditional release. The Working Group called for compensation for the individuals, an investigation into the violations they endured, and holding the perpetrators accountable.

On 22 November 2021, at 3:00 A.M., officers in civilian clothing and riot police forces raided the home of Mohamed’s grandfather without presenting any arrest or search warrant. They confiscated his deceased grandfather’s car, as well as three mobile phones, and apprehended him. The officers, who were filming the raid, then took him to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) building.

At the CID, Mohamed was placed in solitary confinement during his interrogation. CID officers tortured him to confess to the location of the weapons which they claimed were in his possession. They also asked him about the amount of money he gave to his cousin, who is currently outside Bahrain and wanted on charges of a political background. Although Mohamed insisted that he had done nothing wrong, they beat his face and all over his body, stripped him of his clothes, and subjected him to sexual assault and rape. The interrogation lasted for 10 days and was conducted without the presence of his attorney. Subsequently, Mohamed was transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center.

After Mohamed’s transfer to the Dry Dock Detention Center, his lawyer requested an urgent investigation into the torture claims. Subsequently, on 9 February 2022, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) met with Mohamed, who disclosed details of the torture, and they informed him that they would send a forensic pathologist to examine him. On the same day, the forensic pathologist came to the detention center, without any examination tools, to check on him and only took some photographs with his phone. The family has yet to receive any letter or response from the unit. Meanwhile, Mohamed is currently experiencing shortness of breath and nosebleeds when he sleeps, and two of his teeth were broken as a result of torture, causing severe dental pain.

The Public Prosecution Office (PPO) repeatedly extended Mohamed’s pre-trial detention while he was in the Dry Dock Detention Center by postponing trial sessions multiple times. During his trial, he was denied access to his attorney and was not given adequate time and facilities to prepare for the trial. On 15 January 2023, he was sentenced in absentia in a mass trial to 10 years in prison and fined 100,000 dinars after being convicted of 1) joining a terrorist cell, 2) possessing explosives, weapons, and ammunition, 3) receiving military training, and 4) receiving and delivering money to and from a terrorist cell. Despite being sentenced in a mass trial, Mohamed is actually not connected nor related to the other convicted individuals. On 29 May 2023, the Court of Appeals rejected Mohamed’s appeal and upheld the initial verdict. Subsequently, the Court of Cassation affirmed the verdict on 15 January 2024.

In May 2022, Mohamed was subjected to solitary confinement for five days during the month of Ramadan as a punishment after being accused of covering one of the surveillance cameras in the Dry Dock Detention Center. However, officers later discovered that he was not the one who covered the camera and that they had mistakenly punished him.

Since his transfer to Jau Prison in 2023, Mohamed has complained about the prison administration depriving him of seeing a physician to diagnose and treat spots that appeared on his foot. The family suspected that the cause of these spots may be psoriasis or eczema. He continues to endure nosebleeds and dental pain, along with urinary problems and poor vision. This suffering persists amid ongoing medical neglect by the prison administration. Although they schedule appointments for him with doctors specializing in these problems, they consistently refuse to take him there. Mohamed asked his family for medicine to treat toothache and a painkiller for physical pain, and when the family went to the prison to deliver the medicine to him, the prison administration refused to receive it. As of now, he is still deprived of medical treatment.

Recently, Mohamed has faced multiple instances of communication deprivation, experiencing denial of contact twice a month for various reasons. One such reason is his delay in returning from the outdoor area to his cell, and for visiting his fellow detainees in their cells. A notable incident of Mohamed’s communication cutoff happened for a period of two weeks after the end of his participation in the collective hunger strike that began in August 2023 and lasted for 40 days.

On 30 August 2023, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion concerning the arbitrary detention of six Bahraini nationals, including Mohamed. The Working Group deemed their detention arbitrary, citing warrantless arrests and exposure to torture, humiliation, and an unfair trial based on evidence obtained under duress. The experts called on the Bahraini government to immediately and unconditionally release the individuals, provide compensation, investigate the violations they endured, and hold the perpetrators accountable.

Mohamed’s warrantless arrest, solitary confinement, torture, sexual assault, denial of access to legal counsel, unfair mass trial in absentia, denial of contact with his family, and medical neglect constitute violations of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which Bahrain is a party.

As such, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities for the immediate and unconditional release of Mohamed. ADHRB also urges the Bahraini government to investigate the allegations of arbitrary detention, solitary confinement, torture, sexual assault, denial of access to legal counsel, denial of contact with his family members, and medical neglect to hold perpetrators accountable. At the very least, ADHRB calls for a fair retrial for him, leading to his release. It also urges Bahraini authorities to provide immediate and appropriate healthcare for Mohamed and to compensate him for the health issues he has suffered as a result of torture.