On 20 May 2019, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld death sentences against four citizens: Hussein Abdullah Marhoun, Hussain Ali Ahmed Daoud, Sayed Mohammed Sayed Kassem and Ahmed Mohamed Zainuddin. They were charged with murdering a policeman and injuring two others in the Diraz area on 18 June 2017. Testimonies obtained by Salam DHR confirmed that the confessions of the accused were extracted under torture, violating the minimum standards necessary to ensure fair trials. For example, eyewitnesses reported that Hussein Marhoun was brutally tortured while being transferred from Building 12 at Jau Central Prison on 12 November 2018- on the same day that his verdict was issued- to a room near the medical clinic, where he was beaten and tortured by three officers. After that, he was held in solitary confinement and denied outside contact. During the interrogation period, he was also severely tortured, in the building of the National Security Agency (NSA), and even when he was transferred to prison. Prisoners said that he was taken every night after 11 pm to an unknown destination, where he was blindfolded, shackled, tortured and then returned. The effects of torture were visible on his body.
On 6 May 2019, the Court of Cassation upheld the death sentence against Ali al-Arab and Ahmad al-Mulla for terrorism-related crimes in a mass trial on 31 January 2018. Human rights organisations documented various violations which took place during the interrogation period, including a lack of access to counsel and the extraction of confessions under torture. On 21 May 2019, UN human rights experts urged the government of Bahrain to immediately halt the execution of al-Arab and al-Mullah and to repeal the death sentences issued against them, and to ensure that they are re-tried in accordance with international law and international standards.
Since 2011 until now, the Bahraini judiciary has sentenced 36 citizens to death. Thirteen of them have exhausted all stages of litigation, including both the Appeal Court and the Cassation Court (the final stage), and are only awaiting ratification from the King. Eight of these final verdicts, issued by the Cassation Court, have occured in 2019 alone (see attached table).
The death sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment for 10 citizens, including four who were tried in military courts (three of them civilians and one soldier) who were sentenced to death in April 2018. This was before the King overturned the sentence to a life imprisonment. While five are awaiting the decision of the Court of Cassation, following death sentences that were issued against them and upheld by the Court of Appeal. And two have had their cases returned to the Court of Appeal, following the Court of Cassation having overturned their sentence.
In 2017, three citizens, Abbas al-Sami, Sami Mushaima and Ali al-Singace, were executed following unfair trials and did not enjoy the protection of rights of those facing the death penalty as adopted by the Economic and Social Council Of the United Nations on 25 May 1984. This includes Article IV, which states that “the death penalty may be imposed only when the guilt of the accused person is based on clear and convincing evidence which leaves no room for any alternative interpretation of the reality.” In fact, observers of the case found that they were sentenced to death based on confessions extracted under torture. Furthermore, judges ignored their demands to open an investigation into the allegations of torture and to investigate the effects of torture in an independent forensic lab.
Thus, there is great concern for the lives of innocent victims and a fear of further executions in Bahrain, due to false convictions, arbitrary sentences, the absence of a fair judicial system, the application of laws that contravene international standards, the delaying of implementation and the poor conditions of those sentenced to death. All of this amounts to the crime of torture and ill-treatment, and effects the families of those sentenced, including upon their mental health. Reports and testimonies obtained by family members of prisoners confirmed that they are living in dire conditions inside Building 12 in Jau Prison for death row inmates and are treated badly and humiliated.
Salam DHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to abolish political executions and to accede to the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to abide by the Standard Minimum Rules (SMRs) for the Treatment of Prisoners.