Bahrain: Detention of Hasan Ali Saleh

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This article is sourced from Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), one of the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights’ sister organisations

Hasan Ali Saleh is a 16-year-old Bahraini who was arrested in 2018 without a warrant during a raid on his father’s home. Hasan was forcibly disappeared, interrogated without a lawyer, tortured, and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment in an unfair trial. He remains at New Dry Dock, the section of Jau Prison reserved for males under the age of 21.

In the early hours of 13 May 2018, Bahraini officers in plain clothing and masks, accompanied by riot police and other officers wearing yellow uniforms, raided the home of Hasan’s father and arrested Hasan, who was 15-years-old at that time. The police did not give a reason for Hasan’s arrest, nor did they provide a warrant for the search of the home. Hasan was taken to the investigation building at Jau Prison, though at the time he believed he was at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and informed his family that this was where he was being detained.

Officers held Hasan incommunicado for 15 days after he was arrested, when he called and told them that he was still being held at the CID – having never been told he was in the investigation building at Jau Prison.  His family did not learn he was never at the CID until late June 2018.

The authorities held Hasan at the investigation building for 35 days, during which time he was denied contact with his lawyer and interrogated without a lawyer present. Bahraini officers blindfolded, handcuffed, and beat Hasan, and forced him to stand for long periods of time. They tortured Hasan in order to coerce him into confessing to charges including rioting and carrying bombs and Molotov cocktails, and forced him to implicate others in criminal activity, even though he told them that did not know the individuals.

On 17 June 2018, Hasan was transferred to New Dry Dock in Jau Prison. While at New Dry Dock, an officer beat Hasan, stomped on his face with his shoes, and pepper-sprayed his face. The pepper spray was so severe that it caused Hasan to vomit repeatedly that night. Hasan’s family filed a complaint with the Ministry of Interior (MoI) Ombudsman, after which the authorities simply transferred the abusive officer to another ward, but did not inform the family of any further investigation into the abuse or any measures taken to punish the offending officer.

The Bahraini government charged Hasan with espionage, though he was unaware of the charges until his lawyer told his parents and they then informed him. The court acquitted Hasan of these charges on 16 October 2018, but after the court handed down the verdict, Hasan’s lawyer was informed of a new case against Hasan in which the authorities charged him with joining the “February 14 Coalition” – a largely informal online group which the Bahraini government has designated a terrorist organization. Hasan was also accused of vandalizing the Sitra police station and assaulting security officers with Molotov cocktails.

Hasan was tried with 13 other individuals, and the court did not allow him to present evidence on his behalf, nor did it allow him to challenge the evidence against him. On 27 December 2018, the court found Hasan guilty on these new charges, in part based on forced confessions made against him by others, and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment, revocation of his Bahraini citizenship, and a fine of 200 dinars. Hasan’s sentence was upheld on 12 May 2019 and he remains at New Dry Dock.

Bahrain’s actions against Hasan violate international law, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), both of which Bahrain is a party to. Hasan’s arrest and detention without a warrant infringed on his right to liberty and security that is protected under Article 9 of the ICCPR. Hasan’s conviction, in light of forced confessions made by others, was the product of an unfair trial per Article 14 of the ICCPR, which entitles everyone to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal. The torture that officers subjected Hasan to in order to coerce a confession is in violation of the CAT, Article 15, which ensures that any statement established as a result of torture be revoked as evidence in any proceedings.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) joins Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) in calling upon Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations by annulling Hasan’s conviction, releasing him from arbitrary detention in accordance with international law, and, if serious criminal charges can be maintained against him, ensuring any subsequent trial is consistent with due process and fair trial rights. We further call on the Bahraini authorities to investigate Hasan’s allegations of ill treatment and torture, with a view towards holding the perpetrators accountable.