Profile in Persecution: Husain Ali Khamis Barbar

Updated: Husain Ali Khamis Barbar was an 18-year-old Bahraini student when he was arbitrarily arrested a few months after finishing high school. During his detention, he was subjected to torture, solitary confinement, an unfair trial, medical neglect, provocation, and humiliation. He is currently serving a 17-year and six-month prison sentence on charges of political background in Jau Prison. On 2 March 2020, four United Nations experts published an allegation letter addressed to the Bahraini government regarding seven victims, including Husain Barbar. In this letter, they expressed their concern about the mistreatment of these detainees by Bahraini authorities, including the use of torture, unfair trials, enforced disappearances, solitary confinement, denial of medical care, restricted access to lawyers, and family visits against the detainees.

On 29 September 2014, officers from Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior (MOI), including riot police, security police forces, and officers from the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), raided Husain’s home and arrested him without presenting any arrest or search warrant and without disclosing the reason behind this arrest. The officers took Husain to the CID, where he was able to make a short call with his family. During the call, which did not exceed one minute, he informed them that he was at the CID. Subsequently, CID officers subjected him to torture for five days in an attempt to coerce a confession, which he refused to provide.

On 4 October 2014, officers transferred Husain to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) building, where they charged him with arson. However, when Husain once again refused to confess, they returned him to the CID. At the CID, officers repeatedly tortured him by hitting him on sensitive areas, pouring cold water on him, and suspending him by the wrists from a ceiling fan, among other methods. Additionally, his lawyer was not allowed to attend. As a result of the severe torture he endured, Husain suffers from memory loss, recurring headaches, back pain, fainting spells, seizures, tantrums, and psychological problems that have transformed him into an introvert. The family asserts that Husain did not suffer from any of these conditions or symptoms before his arrest. After a total of ten days of torture, Husain confessed under duress and was transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center on 9 October 2014. He was unable to meet with his family until 17 days after his arrest.

On 9 November 2014, Husain’s family filed a complaint with the Special Investigations Unit about his ill-treatment. The government claimed that the unit had attempted to investigate the information contained in the complaint, but Husain refused to speak with them. However, the family confirmed that Husain refrained from speaking to the unit out of fear of being tortured again and being returned to solitary confinement.

Due to the health problems resulting from the torture Husain endured, he was transferred to AlQalaa Hospital, where he remained for about three months in 2015. Afterward, he was transferred to Jau Prison. Later, he faced charges of sabotaging government property related to the events of March 2015, when several detainees in Jau Prison protested against the poor prison conditions. Subsequently, a clash erupted between them and prison officers during family visits to the detainees.

Husain was not brought before a judge within 48 hours of his arrest, and he was only permitted to meet with his lawyer twice during the trial sessions. Furthermore, Husain was allowed to attend only two of his trial sessions, and he did not have adequate time and facilities to prepare for his trial. Additionally, the court utilized confessions obtained from him under torture as evidence to convict him.

On 23 November 2015, the court sentenced Husain to 15 years and 6 months in prison on charges of starting a fire in the post office of Sitra. Husain informed the judge that he had not been in Sitra for an entire month, specifically during the month in question, as he was performing Umrah rituals in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. However, the judge refused to accept his statements. The ruling was primarily based on Husain’s confessions extracted under torture. Subsequently, on 25 January 2016, the court sentenced him to an additional 15 years in prison on charges of illegal assembly and sabotage of state property, related to the Jau Prison events, bringing the total of his sentence to 30 years and six months. Husain appealed the sentence issued against him in the arson case, and on 16 June 2016, the Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to seven years and 6 months imprisonment. He also appealed the ruling issued against him in the sabotage of state property case, and on 16 July 2017, the Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to 10 years in prison, thereby reducing his total sentence to 17 years and six months in prison.

In May 2016, Husain was transferred to AlQalaa Hospital due to the deterioration of his mental and physical health condition, where he stayed for three months, alongside the then-prominent political prisoner Nabeel Rajab. While at the hospital, Husain received treatment from a psychiatrist.

On 3 July 2019, at around 2:00 A.M., prison guards forcibly removed Husain from his cell and transferred him to solitary confinement, where he endured six days of mistreatment. During this period, officers beat him, placed him on a bed without a mattress, and bound his hands and legs to the bedposts for four days. They denied him food and access to the restroom and insulted him throughout. When provided with food, they kept him handcuffed, mocked him, insulted him, and harassed him. While Husain is uncertain about the reason for the abuse and solitary confinement, he believes it may have been punishment for accidentally damaging a prison phone the day before during a seizure. On that same day, the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) visited the prison, and consequently, the prison administration took Husain out of solitary confinement. When the NIHR staff questioned him about the pain resulting from the torture, he refrained from speaking, fearing a return to solitary confinement as punishment. On 8 September 2019, the police transferred him to the prison clinic after he fainted. Following treatment, prison officers transferred him to the “isolation building” of Jau Prison, where police continued to abuse, provoke, and humiliate him, referring to him as a clown. During his time in this building, Husain experienced frequent seizures and fainting. In March and April 2023, Husain was transferred twice to Salmaniya Hospital after experiencing headaches and back pain. His first transfer saw him remain in the hospital for about a week, and during his second transfer, he stayed for approximately 15 days.

On 2 March 2020, the offices of four United Nations experts, namely the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, and the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms while combating terrorism, published an allegation letter addressed to the Bahraini government regarding seven victims, including Husain Barbar, for whom ADHRB had filed a complaint. In this letter, the UN experts expressed their concern about the mistreatment of detainees during interrogation to force confessions to crimes charged against them. Additionally, they raised concerns about the torture to which the detainees were subjected. The experts also expressed concern about the use of false confessions extracted from these detainees under duress by the PPO and other judicial authorities as evidence for their conviction. Furthermore, they voiced concern about persistent allegations of poor detention conditions, including the use of forced disappearances, solitary confinement, and denial of medical care as retaliatory measures against detainees. Additionally, the experts highlighted issues such as denial of attorney access and family visits.

Husain continues to experience ongoing medical negligence by the Jau Prison administration, as it fails to regularly transfer him to his medical appointments. Additionally, he is not provided with medications on a consistent and regular basis, despite his frequent seizures and fainting spells, contributing to the continuous deterioration of his health condition. Furthermore, his family is deprived of visiting him, and their only means of communication is through phone calls.

Husain’s warrantless arrest, solitary confinement, torture, unfair trial, medical negligence, humiliation, and provocation constitute violations of Bahrain’s obligations under its constitution and international treaties. These include 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), all of which Bahrain is a party to. Furthermore, these violations represent an abuse of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, commonly referred to as the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Therefore, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Husain. ADHRB urges Bahrain to provide him with urgent medical treatment, warning against any further deterioration in his health. Additionally, ADHRB calls on Bahrain to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, medical neglect, provocation, and humiliation, with a commitment to holding the perpetrators accountable. Furthermore, ADHRB calls on Bahrain to compensate Husain for all the violations he has endured in prison, particularly for the health problems resulting from torture and medical neglect. Alternatively, ADHRB advocates for, at the very least, a fair retrial for Husain, leading to his release.