Salam DHR Review on the Bahrain Reply to the 60th Session of the UN Committee Against Torture

Repressive security measures against terrorism and extremism
The Bahraini government justified the repression on detainees and enhanced legal and institutional to security measures as a fight against domestic and regional challenges of terrorism and extremism. In this way, the authorities have taken repressive security measures on citizens and detainees, under the pretext of national security against terrorist acts. Furthermore, as a member of the Committee pointed out, it is worrisome that the authorities carry out “collective punishment” against prisoners, as it observed after an ‘extremist’ riot occurred in Jau Prison in 2015, motivated by the deteriorating condition of detainees.
Mechanisms to protect against torture
The Government of Bahrain argued that there is more than one government body to investigate complaints relating to torture cases. It is true that since 2012, Bahrain has formed three instruments to investigate cases of torture and mistreatment—the Ombudsman, Special Investigations Unit (SIU), and Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission (PDRC)—as recommended by the BICI report.
Nonetheless, they have failed to conduct independent and impartial investigations. For instance, although the authority argues that the Ombudsman is run as a fully independent body, there have been public suspicion of its transparency and independence especially because of it is overseen and controlled by the Ministry of Interior. Furthermore, as implied during the Committee meeting, the Ombudsman does not have any judicial power, which proves the lack of its substantive role in settlement of torture cases.
The allegations of torture
The authorities claimed that the allegations of ill-treatment and torture raised by NGOs are “groundless,” and such cases are unfound according to their investigations. However, as a member of the Committee responded, the brutal torture cases have been continuously reported not only by local NGOs, but also many international watchdogs. According to the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission (PDRC) report in 2015, a number of prisoners have been physically assaulted by staffs who had not given any proper training on the lawful use of force. Most of them were not permitted to contact their families nor request proper legal assistance. This is a serious violation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance that aims to prevent the occurrence of enforced disappearance, adopted by the United Nations in 2006.
Impunity for Torture
One of the serious concerns raised by the Committee was the “culture of impunity” in Bahrain. During the Committee meeting, the Government of Bahrain emphasised that its Penal Code criminalises the practice of torture, and allegations of torture have been investigated by the relevant government authorities. Contrast to its claim, it is widely reported that there have been no meaningful investigation or punishment.
Including Mubarak bin Huwail, as mentioned during the Committee meeting, a number of state perpetrators of torture have rather been promoted with impunity.
Another case is Police officer Sara Almusa who tortured Nazeeha Saeed, who is the Bahrain correspondent of the French TV news channel France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya. Her case was in 2011 and until now no justice for her.
For instance, Bassam Al-Muraj, who have been accused of supervising the systematic torture for years, was promoted to be the General Director for Anti-Corruption, Economic and Electronic Security in the General Directorate in 2013, without any investigation of torture allegations. The Government of Bahrain failed to provide clear explanations about their promotion despite their alleged involvement in torture.
Medical care for prisoners
The authority implied that treatment or medical care on prisoners, including psychological care, are conducted with an agreement with medical professionals. In reality, the relentless torture has occasionally taken away life of inmates without proper treatment. In November 2014, a 35-year-old prisoner, Hasan Majeed al-Shaikh was severely beaten to the extent of having his skull and jaw broken and kidney ruptured. He was placed in solitary confinement without proper medical treatment, which eventually resulted in death. In March 2017, Muhammad Sahwan, a victim of excessive torture, died of heart failure in the infamous Jau Prison. He was shot by security forces in 2011, but never treated for the 80-birdshot pellets in his head. Until recently he had denied full treatment with his life at risk, which resulted in sudden cardiac arrest.
Coordination with international organisations
With regards to the questions raised by the Committee on the cancellation of the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur, the Government of Bahrain failed to make clear and relevant explanations. The authorities have continuously impeded investigations of the international community on torture. In 2012 and 2013, the Government of Bahrain postponed the scheduled visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture. It has been also reported that the government provides false information to third parties. For instance, with regards to a torture case of 32-year-old detainee, Mohamed Ramadan, the Bahraini authorities responded to a question raised by the UK government that there had been no such allegation, contradictory to several independent and documented human rights reports.