Profile in Persecution: Ammar Ebrahim Ahmed (Dhaif)

Ammar Ebrahim Ahmed (Dhaif), a 17-year-old Bahraini high school student and minor, was arrested by Bahraini authorities from his sister’s home on 13 July 2013 without providing an arrest warrant. During his detention, he was subjected to torture, sexual harassment, denial of access to his lawyer during interrogation, an unfair trial based on confessions obtained under torture, and medical negligence. Currently, he is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Jau Prison.

On 13 July 2013, during Ammar’s summer vacation shortly after the end of the school year, he was at his sister’s house in the village of AlQurayyah for a Suhoor meal in the month of Ramadan. An explosion occurred near the main street close to his sister’s house. Subsequently, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) forces and officers from the AlBudaiya police station raided the house, evacuated all the occupants, and apprehended Ammar after beating him. The officers informed Ammar that he was being accused of involvement in the explosion solely based on his presence at his sister’s house near the location of the incident, and because he was not one of the homeowners. Ammar was then transferred to the AlKhayyala Police Station, where police officers interrogated him without the presence of his lawyer and severely beat him with batons, restricted him, and subjected him to falaqa, or beating on the soles of the feet, beat him and sexually harassed him and insulted him to force him to confess to the charges against him. As a result of the torture, Ammar suffered a broken nose, and severe back and mouth pain, in addition to pain resulting from other injuries that disappeared over time. Ammar was forced to confess to these fabricated charges against him, but his family later discovered that the charges against him – which were published in local newspapers – were far from the charges he had been forced to confess.

After the investigation, Ammar was transferred the next day to the AlBudaiya police station. On 15 July 2013, he was brought before the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) without his lawyer, where he confessed to the charges brought against him out of fear of further torture. Following the PPO’s order, he was transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Center.

Ammar was not given adequate time and facilities to prepare for his trial and was unable to present evidence and challenge the evidence presented against him. Although he denied the confessions extracted from him under torture, they were used as evidence against him. On 20 October 2014, the court sentenced Ammar to 15 years in prison after being convicted of 1) involvement in an explosion with the intention of terrorizing civilians, 2) attempting to kill using terrorism, 3) arson and endangering people’s lives, and 4) participating in a gathering in a public place. Ammar appealed his sentence, and on 23 February 2015, the Court of Appeals rejected the appeal and upheld the initial verdict. Subsequently, the Court of Cassation later upheld the ruling. The parents later knew that all the detainees in the case were asked during the investigation and before the cassation ruling was issued if Ammar was a partner in the crime, but all of them denied his involvement. However, his sentence remains unchanged. In March 2023, Ammar was one of 100 prisoners sentenced by the court to a fine of a thousand Bahraini dinars on charges of spreading the COVID-19 virus in Jau Prison.

In May 2015, the court sentenced Ammar to an additional five years in prison on a fifth charge of assaulting a police patrol, a charge he became aware of while he was in the Dry Dock Detention Center, making the total of his sentence to 20 years imprisonment. Ammar appealed his sentence, and on 14 February 2016, the appeals court rejected the appeal and upheld the initial verdict. In 2022, Ammar’s family requested their son’s release under an alternative sentence; however, the Bahraini authorities rejected their request.

On 18 May 2015, Ammar was transferred to the new Dry Dock Prison, designed for imprisoned individuals under the age of 21. In May 2017, upon reaching the age of 21, he was transferred to Jau Prison.

While in prison, Ammar’s family believes their son experienced several incidents involving violations, but they are unsure of the reasons as he does not openly discuss these matters. For instance, Ammar suffered a broken hand and a leg fracture. However, the treatment was limited to splinting his leg without the prison administration allowing him to follow up on treatment.  The administration did not take him to a specialist doctor to monitor his health, which compelled him to remove the splint himself for fear of it deteriorating. The family suspects that what happened with Ammar may be the result of torture after his sentencing. Additionally, Ammar underwent a nose operation following a fracture he suffered during the interrogation period. Another operation, a nasal adenoid procedure, was performed, but it was unsuccessful due to inadequate healthcare in the prison, necessitating a repeat procedure. Currently, Ammar is experiencing pain in the back, neck, joints, and teeth, along with frequent headaches and poor vision, all attributed to continuous medical neglect by the Jau Prison administration.

In August 2023, Ammar initiated a hunger strike alongside approximately 800 other detainees that lasted for 40 days, protesting their poor conditions, and demanding their fundamental rights. These rights included adherence to doctors’ appointments and proper dispensing of medications, adjustments to meals, cessation of medical neglect against detainees, an increase in the number and duration of phone calls, extended visitation times, permission for visits from non-first-degree relatives, allowance of private visits, increased time outside their cells, modifications to meals, respect for their freedom to perform religious rituals, access to books, and other basic demands.

Ammar’s warrantless arrest, torture, sexual harassment, unfair trial, 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. 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.

As such, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities for the immediate and unconditional release of Ammar. ADHRB also urges the Bahraini government to investigate the allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, sexual assault, denial of access to legal counsel during the interrogation stage when he was a minor, and medical neglect, to hold the perpetrators accountable. ADHRB additionally calls on the Bahraini authorities to provide compensation for the injuries suffered as a result of torture. At the very least, ADHRB advocates for a fair retrial for him under the Restorative Justice Law for children, leading to his release. It also urges the Jau Prison administration to provide immediate and appropriate healthcare for Ammar, holding it responsible for any further deterioration in his health condition.