Profile in Persecution: Abdulla Hatem Yusuf

Abdulla Hatem Yusuf was a 15-year-old minor and school student when Bahraini authorities arrested him from his home on 15 May 2015. During his detention, he was subjected to torture, sexual harassment, denial of access to his lawyer during interrogation, and an unfair trial based on confessions extracted under torture. He is currently serving a 13-year sentence in Jau Prison on politically motivated charges.

On 15 May 2015, plainclothes officers raided Abdulla’s home, conducted a search, and damaged the items inside. They arrested Abdulla while simultaneously beating him, without presenting any arrest warrant or disclosing the reason for the arrest. When the family inquired about his destination, the officers mocked them, stating that they were taking him to the Sitra Police Station. However, Abdulla later made a brief call to his family on the same day, informing them that he was at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) building. Consequently, the family discovered that the officers had lied to them. 

Abdulla had been arrested twice before. The initial arrest occurred when officers apprehended him from AlFariq Mosque, accusing him of intending to participate in a march on 15 January 2015. He was subsequently released on 29 January 2015. The second arrest occurred on 15 February 2015, when the CID contacted Abdulla’s father, asking him to bring his son to court on charges of harassing a girl by phone. When Abdulla was handed over, it became clear that they were pursuing him for a political case. He was later released on 11 March 2015.

During Abdulla’s eight-day interrogation at the CID, officers beat him on the jaw and sensitive places of his body, stripped him naked, forced him to stand for extended periods, sexually harassed him, poured cold water on him, and placed him in a cold room. Moreover, they blindfolded him during the entire interrogation period, deprived him of sleep, and insulted him. Abdulla was also denied his right to attorney access, and officers promised his release if he confessed to the fabricated charges against him. Subsequently, he falsely confessed to the charges brought against him. As a result of the torture, Abdulla’s entire body was covered in bruises. On 23 May 2015, eight days after his arrest, Abdulla was transferred to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO), where he was accused of bombing and attempted murder of security personnel. He was later transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center, where he was able to meet his family for the first time one month and a half after his arrest.

Abdulla was not brought before a judge within 48 hours of his arrest, and he was not given adequate time and facilities to prepare for his trial. Furthermore, the court used confessions extracted from him under torture as evidence against him, even though he denied them before the judge, informing him that they were extracted under duress. On 28 April 2016, the court sentenced him to 3 years in prison on charges of 1) using fireworks to endanger people’s lives, 2) criminal arson, and 3) burning the National Bank of Bahrain’s ATM for terrorist purposes using explosives. Abdulla appealed the ruling, but the Court of Appeal rejected the appeal and upheld the sentence. Subsequently, on 26 May 2016, the High Criminal Court sentenced Abdulla to an additional 10 years in prison on charges of 4) attempted murder of security personnel, 5) arson, and 6) detonating a locally made bomb for terrorist purposes in the AlNoaim area, resulting in a total of 13 years in prison. Abdulla appealed the ruling, but on 13 December 2017, the Court of Appeal rejected the appeal and upheld the ruling. The verdict was subsequently upheld by the Court of Cassation.

Abdulla’s warrantless arrest, torture, sexual harassment, denial of access to his lawyer during interrogation, and unfair trial 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. Furthermore, the violations he endured as a minor contravene the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Bahrain is also a party.

Therefore, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Abdulla. ADHRB also urges the Bahraini government to investigate allegations of arbitrary arrest, torture, sexual harassment, and denial of access to legal counsel during the interrogation phase when he was a minor, and to hold the perpetrators accountable. At the very least, ADHRB advocates for a fair retrial for him under the Restorative Justice Law for Children, leading to his release.