13 Jan 2012

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern over the show trial of 5 policemen allegedly implicated in the torture to death of 2 detainees in custody last April.

The trial of 5 policemen accused of “beating” that lead to death of online journalist Zakariya Rashid Hassan Al Asheri (40 years old) and Ali Isa Saqer (31 years old) started on the 11th of January 2012, 8 months after the first announcement of their referral to court[1]. Many reports of torture have been reported in the months prior to the events of February 14th, 2011 (Check HRW report Feb 2010: Torture Redux) and which continue to be reported even after the release of the report of the BICI (Hasan Oun as an example); all confirming the systematic nature and apparent policy of the use of torture in detention centers in Bahrain. The Bahraini government, however, continues to ignore calls from local and international organizations to hold any of the high rank officers accountable for the deaths of AlAshiri, Saqer and the other three men who have died under torture in custody[2] . Instead it has resorted to bring cases of torture against low rank policemen who because of the systematic nature of torture in these institutions, if proven guilty, were following policy and not acting on their own account.

It is important to note that this case brought forward by the government does not include the huge number of documented cases of torture (1866 cases that occurred within a period of 8 months only following the national safety status[3] ) and the similarity of torture techniques including the use of electric shocks, which wouldn’t be possible without the availability of approved and budgeted devices at the detention centers. Through the hundreds of testimonies of abuse and torture that have been gathered, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights have collected the names of at least 50 security officials who were identified by victims as either carrying out the acts of torture directly or overseeing, authorizing or ordering the act of torture. Such a high number of torturers only confirms the existence of a policy of torture.

Instead of holding them accountable, the government of Bahrain has promoted several officials who are responsible for the occurrence of torture in the detention centers. Bahrain's head of public security Tariq bin Dinah was dismissed from his position then appointed as an Ambassador to the Cabinet of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The previous head of the national security apparatus Sheikh Khalifa bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa was promoted to General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Defense and King's advisor with Minster rank. This is not the first time the government resorts to a rotation of torturers in security establishments to evade prosecution[4].

In addition, the circumstances of the latest trial of 5 Pakistani policemen accused in the death of AlAshiri and Saqer are not promising.

The 5 policemen were referred to military court since May 2011 as per official press releases however their trial have just convened at civil court as the military court (which has been busy with 100s cases of civilians) said the case does not fall under its jurisdiction[5]. Two of the 5 men are accused of beating AlAshiri and Saqer, leading to their death while the other 3 are charged with failing to report the crime. The public prosecution has eased the crime by calling it “beating” rather than “torture”, denying the intention of both torture and killing. The penalty of beating that lead to death can be a light sentence of 3-7 years imprisonment in case of conviction, compared to a life sentence in a case of torture. The accused policemen, who are not detained, have attended court in their uniforms, which indicates that they are still on duty and are not considered a threat to the rest of detainees.

All five accused policemen are of Pakistani nationality. Bahrain’s police, military and national guard are staffed in large part by non-Bahraini citizens, mostly from Pakistan, Yemen and Syria. The use of mercenaries by security forces in Bahrain has been a longstanding topic of concern, as they are being used to suppress political dissent in the country, at time Shia citizens are not allowed to serve in the security forces. Bahrain, until now, has not signed the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, 4 December 1989.

The general indication is that impunity is still being applied under a show trial. The UN Human Rights High commissioner has mentioned in her last statement on Bahrain: “Such impunity – at all levels – is a serious impediment to national reconciliation.”[6]

Background:

Zakariya AlAsheri, moderator of www.dair.net online forum was arrested on the 2nd of April 2011 on charges of inciting hatred, publishing false news, promoting sectarianism and calling for the overthrow of the regime via e-forums. He was announced dead in custody 8 days later on the 9th of April 2011, and his body covered with marks of torture was handed to his family. At that time the government of Bahrain refused all reports of torture and alleged that he had died of sickle cell anemia complications .

Ali Saqer, turned himself in to the police on the 5th of April 2011 after several threats to his family. Four days later he was announced dead by the Ministry of Interior on the 9th of April 2011, in police custody. The Ministry of Interior released a statement claiming that "the suspect created chaos at the detention centre, prompting the security forces to interfere to bring the situation under control, but he resisted them sustaining injuries in the process. He was taken to the hospital and later died." The minster of Human Rights herself alleged that detainees died of nature cause at a press conference and accused activists of fabricating photos of the torture marks. When Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR published photos showing the torture marks on the body of Saqer, he was accused with fabricating photos and was summoned to military prosecution. Saqer had been arrested on charges of attempted murder of policemen by trying to run over them in his car. Weeks after his death, Bahrain T.V showed Saqer's “confessions” on the 28th of April 2011.

Independent human rights organization including BCHR, HRW, RSF and CPJ confirmed the death of these detainees and another three detainees under torture. The recent report by the Bahraini independent commission of Inquiry (BICI) has also confirmed that these deaths were due to torture (refer details at the bottom).


Based on the above, Bahrain center for Human Rights strongly recommends:

1. The implementation of the BICI recommendation set in paragraph 1716 which states “To establish a national independent and impartial mechanism to determine the accountability of those in government who have committed unlawful or negligent acts resulting in the deaths, torture and mistreatment of civilians with a view to bringing legal and disciplinary action against such individuals, including those in the chain of command, military and civilian, who are found to be responsible under international standards of ―superior responsibility.”

2. To put on trial all those accused of torturing detainees as well as those who ordered and authorised such acts. The BCHR has produced a report with allegations of torture against four members of the royal family. These were names that victims identified to members of the center in their testimonies of how they were tortured. The full list, however, includes the names of over 50 officers.

3. To put on trial all ministers responsible for torture, and/or would have authorised and condoned human rights abuses. This includes the Minister of Interior, the head of the National Security Apparatus and the Minister of Social Development.

4. To end the policy of impunity of those in government and those in power who are responsible for the failure to take serious steps to investigate or to convict a single official or security officer for the grave abuses that have taken place.

5. That the government of Bahrain signs the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in order to strengthen legal accountability for torturers.

6. To put an end to the policy of bringing and using foreign mercenaries to work for the security services and Special Forces to confront the peaceful public protests and local movements for greater civil and human rights.

Details on death of AlAshiri and Saqer as documented in the BICI report (excerpts):

Zakariya AlAshiri (Case No. 24):

“The death certificate states that the cause of death was severe heart failure and cessation of breathing following complications from sickle cell anaemia.

A forensic report confirmed the cause of death and concluded that the deceased had large bruises on his back and thighs and smaller bruises on his face and hands. (..) The deceased was allegedly tortured at the CID. On 9 April 2011, he was transferred to Dry Dock Detention Centre. He was subjected to torture between 6 and 9 April 2011, and died from torture in Room Number 1.”

“The Commission also received a statement from a witness who was detained in the same cell as the deceased. The witness stated that all the detainees in the same cell were blindfolded and handcuffed, and forced to lie on their stomachs. On one of the mornings, the deceased began to experience hallucinations or confusion, whereby he began banging on the door shouting his name. The prison guards shouted at him to be quiet and when he did not comply, they entered his cell. The witness heard the deceased being beaten and he heard him scream after each beating. The witness then heard a shuffling noise after which the deceased‘s shouts became muffled. The witness then heard a Pakistani say in Urdu, ―He is dead.‖ The death of Mr Asheri is attributed to torture at the Dry Dock Detention Centre.”

Ali Isa Ibrahim Saqer (Case No. 23)

“The death certificate states that the cause of death was hypovolemic shock resulting from several traumas.

A forensic report confirmed the cause of death and concluded that the deceased had dark red bruises across the body but mostly around the back of the hands and right eye. His wrists had red flaking marks because of handcuffing and these marks were of recent origin.

The death of Mr Ali is attributed to torture at the Dry Dock Detention Centre.”


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[1]http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/bahrain-to-try-guar.. [2]http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/3919 and cases 22-26 of BICI Report [3] Documented by Bahraini NGOshttp://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/4849 [4]http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/3040 [5]http://www.manamavoice.. [6]http://www.un.org/apps/news/stor.. [7]http://www.policemc.gov.bh/en/news_detail..