On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, SALAM DHR: Stop enforced disappearance in Bahrain

Bahrain’s security authorities continue to use the crime of enforced disappearance as a strategy to spread terror among members of society, to suppress activists and to intimidate people from claiming their rights and to exert political pressure on opposition forces, activists and citizens.

The forcibly disappeared person loses the most basic civil rights: the absence of a lawyer, the violation of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the violation of fair trial guarantees. Victims are subjected to torture and ill-treatment and the “Community Protection Act against Terrorist Acts”, which gives powers to the criminal security officer of the National Security Agency. The disappeared victim is held in detention by a security official of the Ministry of the Interior or the National Security Agency.

The victims cannot contact their families and their families do not know where the victims are or whether they are alive or dead. In most cases the police stations and the headquarters of the Bahraini intelligence in Adliya and the National Security Agency deny the presence of the victims and they refuse to disclose their whereabouts. This is an illegal practice and an explicit violation of the Bahraini Law No. (46) for the year 2002 Article (61) To a person or his imprisonment only by order of the competent authorities by law, and shall be treated in a manner that preserves human dignity, and may not be harmed physically or morally.

While there is no article in the laws of Bahrain that considers enforced disappearance a criminal offense since article 4 of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of Persons from Enforced Disappearance requires States to consider each act of enforced disappearance a criminal offense under article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) considered enforced disappearance a crime against humanity. It is worth mentioning that the Public Prosecution in Bahrain and the courts did not open any kind of investigation against the Ministry of the Interior or the National Security Agency on enforced disappearances.

The Bahraini Law for the Protection of Society from the Terrorist Acts promulgated by Decree No. (68) of 2006 granted the National Security Agency the detention of the accused or more than one accused for a period of 28 days without permission from the judiciary. It also gave powers to the prosecution of terrorist crimes to order the arrest for these crimes from the Attorney-General or his substitute for a period of consecutive periods not exceeding six months.

An example of the victims of enforced disappearance in Bahrain are “Sayed Alawi Hussein, Fadhil Abbas, Mohamed Almutaghwi and Mubarak Mehanna” who have been subjected to enforced disappearance for nearly a year. The family of Alawi submitted complaints to the Ombudsman of the Ministry of the Interior and the Special Investigation Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor. On 11 September 2017, Ombudsman submitted a response to the progress of the investigation, stating that Alawi “transferred responsibility to another authority outside the jurisdiction of the Ombdusman”. On 22 October 2017, Alawi and three others were held under military detention and they faced charges relating to terrorism and got tried in military courts under the Terrorism Act and had their confessions extracted under brutal torture. They were sentenced to death, and the Military Court of Cassation upheld these sentences for the defendants named until the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa eased the death sentence to life imprisonment.

Children in Bahrain are also subjected to enforced disappearance. For example, Sadiq Jaafar al-Sammak, a child from A’ali village, had 42 days of disappearance from 5 October 2017 and Muhsin Abdullah Al Aali from Buri village had 8 days of disappearance from 8 November 2017. Not to mention that this does also violate the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights denounces the repressive practices of the Bahraini authorities towards citizens and activists.

The Bahraini authorities have blatantly violated international demands to stop the policy of impunity for serious human rights violations and to hold accountable officers investigating victims and those responsible for the crime of enforced disappearance. SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights thorugh its following up on enforced disappearances in Bahrain found that officers tell victims: “No one can save them and they can kill the victims and bury the bodies or throw them into the sea and they are the highest authority in the country and the judiciary is under their control”.

The reports of the United Nations confirmed Bahrain’s practice of the crime of enforced disappearance and the report of the UN Committee of Experts on the review of Bahrain’s compliance with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), expressed its concern about reports on arbitrary arrest by the security forces, including incommunicado detention without access to a lawyer or family, was carried out unlawfully, including solitary confinement incommunicado of the outside world without access to a lawyer or family.

The families of victims of enforced disappearance in Bahrain also suffer from severe psychological pressure. They do not know if they beloved ones are alive or know where they are being held, what their conditions of detention, their health and what charges they face. Family members also feel threatened by the same fate and may be kidnapped at any moment. The family also faces difficult economic conditions where there is no Bahraini law that allows the family to receive any monthly aid, either during the period of investigation or after the death sentence, as was the case with Sami Mushaima, Ali al-Singace and Abbas Al samea who were executed in January 2017. No financial aid applies on those who are imprisoned or sent into voluntary or enforced exile.

In this context, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights denounces the repressive methods adopted by the Bahraini authorities towards citizens and activists and demands:

  1. Amend the national legislation to be in line with the provisions of the international conventions to which Bahrain has acceded.
  2. The need for Bahrain to submit its periodic reports to the committees and experts of the United Nations.
  3. Bahrain should accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and commit itself to reporting to the independent expert body that monitors the implementation of the Convention by States parties.
  4. Enactment of enforced disappearance as an extensive and independent crime, excluding it from the application of amnesty laws and a statute of limitations.
  5. Investigate and prosecute those responsible for enforced disappearance in fair courts and ensure that survivors and persons who have lost their loved ones have the right to reparation.