Bahrain— stop the systematic torture
By: Yusur AlBahraini
Journalist and human rights activist
Tens of armed members of Bahraini government’s forces surrounded Sheikh Abduljalil Al-Moqdad’s home. Although he was arrested three years ago, his son Murtadha Al-Moqdad recalls the storming of their home as if it happened yesterday. Their life has changed since then.
Al-Moqdad was arrested at 2 a.m. on March 27, 2011. He is one of the leaders of the Bahraini community and was one of the first people to participate in the peaceful demonstration on February 14, 2011. Prior to the Arab Spring, the Bahraini authorities were continuously targeting Al-Moqdad for his public speeches that urged people to peacefully protest.
There was no arrest warrant. Murtadha opened the door and asked the armed men to wait. They hit him on his head and tortured him before storming his parents’ bedroom. Murtadha recalls commandos, men from the government’s intelligence and anti-riot police all gathered to arrest one unarmed man, his father. They also confiscated all of the family members’ passports. The authorities have neither returned the passports nor issued new ones. “I can’t go to university and I can’t work. I don’t have identification card or passport,” says Murtadha.
Al-Moqdad is serving a life sentence in prison. Murtadha reports on the torture his father had to face. Solitary confinements, electric shocks and beatings were a norm. He was subjected to ill-treatment and systematic abuse. For instance he would be subjected to extreme cold temperatures. Murtadha shared painful stories about his father’s experience in prison.
Murtadha, who was arrested several times during peaceful protests, is determined to continue his pro-democracy work and rightful demands to release all political prisoners. “The world is watching. It’s not hidden. But international powers are giving green light to the Bahraini authorities,” says Murtadha.
Torture— a grave human rights violation
Amnesty International has continuously expressed concerns regarding “house raids and arrests carried out by the security forces without warrants as well as instances of torture and other ill-treatment at the Criminal Investigations Directorate, including exposing detainees to extreme cold conditions.”
Horror stories from prisons in Bahrain are common. Some of the torture techniques that have been used in Bahrain are: stripping prisoners naked, banning them from using washrooms and placing prisoners in tiny cells with poor hygiene conditions. While some of the prominent political prisoners have been subjected to solitary confinement, many were placed in overcrowded prison cells. Many of the political prisoners were also deprived from required medical care, which made their life at risk.
Torture is considered to be a severe human rights violation, but the violation will be greater when children are subjected to torture. Amnesty International documented incidents in which children were tortured. “Scores of children arrested on suspicion of participating in anti government protests – including some as young as 13 – were blindfolded, beaten and tortured in detention over the past two years.” The organization also said that some children were threatened with rape in order to extract confessions.
The systematic oppression and torture in Bahrain is also a violation to UN’s Declaration of Human Rights that clearly states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The Bahraini government have detained over a thousand of political prisoners. Interviewing and talking to released prisoners in Bahrain, I have realized that all of them share similar experiences in prisons. I have also spoken to victims of torture who were detained during the 1990s in Bahrain who also share similar painful experiences. Taking that into consideration, it is evident that torture is systematic in Bahrain. There has been no serious action from the Bahraini government to investigate allegations of torture and abuse. The least effort that the government could do is to investigate the allegations of torture, ensure that no prisoner would be tortured or ill-treated and release all prisoners of conscience.