Bahrain: UN calls to investigate violations committed against Shia activists detained since 2013
Geneva, 30 August 2021
Translated and edited by: The Committee for Justice
United Nations human rights experts have called on Bahrain to investigate allegations of abuse of two Shia activists, Sheikh Zuhair Jassim Muhammad Abbas and Ali Abdul-Hussain Ali Hassan Ali al-Wazir, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, and lack of access to due process since their arrest in 2013.
The experts stated in a UN memorandum sent to Bahrain on 28 June 2021, that Abbas, a former religious scholar and teacher at Hoza Al-Gharifi. He has been detained in Jau Prison since 18 July 2013 and was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. He was accused of participating in a terrorist plot and was first sentenced to life imprisonment in November 2013 for his participation in the Riffa bombing, and in 2015, he was again sentenced for espionage, and in October 2017, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for financing and participating in a terrorist organization.
Abbas was also denied access to a lawyer or his family, and was tried in absentia. Following human rights pressure, he was finally able to contact his family on January 17 and 18, 2021. However, contact was cut off on January 18 after people from his family heard shouting from officers in the room when he started providing details of the torture he was subjected to.
Abbas is currently facing charges of incitement to commit murder in connection with an incident inside the prison, and is being held in Building 4, which is known to be reserved for inmates with serious and contagious diseases, which puts him at risk of infection. It is also alleged that his three cellmates assaulted and harassed him repeatedly.
Ali Abdul-Hussein Ali Hassan Ali Al-Wazir:
As for Al-Wazir, the experts indicated that he was arrested in 2013, and that at the time of his arrest the police did not present an arrest warrant and he was not informed of the reasons for his arrest, and that he was subjected to enforced disappearance for three months, and it was later learned that during this period he was detained in Al-Qudaibiya police station, where he spent 40 days in solitary confinement, and the conditions in the cell were reported to be unhygienic and inhumane.
Al-Wazir was also subjected to physical and psychological torture during his interrogation. He was allegedly placed in a dark room where he was beaten on his back with a tube and endured electric shocks to his private parts. It was also reported that he did not have a lawyer and that he was forced to sign a statement under torture.
Al-Wazir was convicted of three different charges: detonating an explosive device, killing a migrant worker, and detonating an explosive device on a bus. The appeals court overturned his conviction in the migrant worker murder case, but the appeals and cassation court upheld the verdict in the other two cases. He was sentenced to 56 years in prison. Al-Wazir was transferred to Jau Prison in 2013 after the ruling, where he suffers from inhumane conditions of detention, and discrimination by the prison administration and its inmates based on his religious affiliation.
UN concerned about torture and enforced disappearance:
The experts expressed their deep concern about acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against Abbas and Al-Wazir, noting that it is a pattern of abuse against prisoners from the Shia religious minority in Bahrain.
The experts also addressed violations of the right to liberty and security of persons, and the right to a fair trial during the stages leading up to sentencing, expressing concern at the reported deplorable conditions of detention, the excessive use of solitary confinement, the denial of medical care, as well as the denial of safeguards basics such as contacting a lawyer and contacting family.
UN demands from Bahrain:
At the conclusion of their memorandum, the experts called on the Bahraini government to provide detailed information on how the arrest and detention of Abbas and Al-Wazir comply with its obligations under international rules and standards for human rights, and about the measures that have been or will be taken to ensure full and impartial investigations, independent medical examinations, and judicial investigations or other investigations into allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The experts also called on Bahrain to indicate whether there are guidelines or training provided to prison staff regarding the treatment of prisoners, including the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of religion or belief and the right of prisoners to meet their spiritual needs, and to indicate whether any protection measures have been taken against torture and any form of inhuman or degrading treatment, particularly in places of detention.