Tens of people charged in criminal cases without evidence given harsh military sentences solely based on coerced confessions
A year after their arrest, torture and being sentenced to life imprisonment by the military court, the civilian courts continue to consider accusations based on the invalid investigations of the military prosecution
Marks of torture on body of Hussain Al-Saffar weeks after his arrest
Military verdict is based on the Law of Terrorism which has been internationally condemned and the Court adopted its judgment solely on confessions taken under torture and testimonies of security officers who practiced torture.
24 April 2012
Bahrain Center for Human Rights is following with great concern the false justice adopted by the civilian court in Bahrain, which adopts the approach of military trials, as it continues to consider the appeal of many cases of those arrested in a fierce crackdown that affected thousands of Bahrainis due to peaceful protests that started February of 2011. This includes prisoners who received harsh military judgments which landed them life imprisonment after being accused in criminal cases that were weak in basis and lacking any clear evidence. However, the civilian court is continuing to consider their cases depending on the investigations of the military prosecution that ignored to ensure the most basic rights of the accused at the time of arrest and investigation, where they entirely relied on the confessions taken under torture.
While Bahrain Center for Human Rights unequivocally condemns the violence or harassment against any segment of the Bahraini society, of citizens and residents, it believes as according to documented statements and information that the Bahraini authorities have proceeded to drag innocent people in cases of criminal violence without evidence, and exploited these issues in the local media, in order to distort the image of peaceful demonstrators who came out to demand reforms and democracy and to present them as terrorists and criminals. This was in order to justify the violent crackdown which affected thousands through arbitrary arrests, detentions and torture.
In this report, BCHR reviews a model for one of the criminal cases, which involved many violations that invalidate the case and which show that the judiciary was not concerned with achieving justice and knowing the real offenders, but to produce political judgments that are previously prepared and decided on for the exploitation of detainees' cases in a political manner.
The case of Manama youth - Case No. (65/2011 - Criminal)
On 3 October 2011, the Court of National Safety (military) sentenced14 Bahrainis to life imprisonment (11 of whom were arrested), after being accused of "severely beating the victim which led to his death, for terrorist purposes", where the military prosecution claimed that in March 2011, they were involved in "killing one of the Asians named Abdul Malik Ghulam Rasool, a Pakistani, by chasing him as he left his house in Manama near one of the religious places, where he was attacked by wooden panels and iron rods, and when his house was destructed, as well as assaulting the safety of his body through beating by wood panels, and participating in a gathering in a public place to cause riots and crimes. All of these crimes occurred for purposes of terrorism according to the court and intended to disturb public order and endanger the safety of the kingdom and its security by attacking the residents, spreading terror among them and intimidating them".
Violating the rights of the accused during detention
In this case, 11 people from the defendants were arrested in late March 2011 after storming the houses of most of them by force in the late hours after midnight by breaking the doors and breaking into the bedrooms by masked civilians and military personnel. They pointed weapons at the people in the houses in a way that caused terror and fear among family members without presenting any legal document or a memorandum authorizing the attack and the arrest. In the attack, many of their personal holdings and funds were stolen, including laptops, cameras and mobile phones.
Among the arrested was Sayed Hadi Nasser Al-Alawi, who was suffering from a broken leg, yet was arrested nevertheless. Besides that, while the security forces were asking about a person called Ibrahim when they broke into the house of Abdullah Al-Hamad, however, they arrested Abdullah as there was no Ibrahim in the house. The family of Abbas Ismail and Ali Mohammed Hassan bin Rajab said that the detainee was brutally beaten in front of them at the time of arrest, after covering his eyes and tying his hands behind his back. Also, Hussain al-Saffar was severely beaten at the time of his arrest by more than 30 policemen who tied his hands and legs, sprayed a substance on his face, covered his eyes with a black piece of cloth and severely beat him with sticks, batons and wires as well as subjecting him with verbal abuse and insults until he fainted.
1 Hassan Abdulhadi Salman Al-Mokharaq, arrested on 29 March 2011, age: 26, Employee at Bahrain International Hospital 2 Salman Abdulhadi Salman Al-Mokharaq, arrested on 29 March 2011, age: 21, University student / photographer 3 Nader Abdulnabi Salem AL-Orayedh, arrested on 29 March 2011, age: 47, Driver at the ministry of health 4 Abdullah Hassan Ali Al-Hamad, arrested on 27 March 2011, age: 37, Business owner 5 Ali Mohammed Hassan bin Rajab, arrested on 27 March 2011, age: 19, student 6 Sayed Hadi Nasser Alawi, arrested on 27 March 2011, age: 20 University student/ Formula 1 marshal 7 Jawad Kadhim Manshad Abdulnabi, arrested on 27 March 2011, age: 49, Retired 8 Hassan Mohammed Hassan bin Rajab, arrested on 27 March 2011, age: 29, Business Owner 9 Tawfeeq Jaafar Abdullah Al-Qassab, arrested on 26 March 2011, age: 46, Retired 10 Hussain Abdulamir Hassan AL-Saffar, arrested on 27 March 2011, age: 24, University student/ Employee at Jawad 11 Abbas Ismael Abdullah Ghulum, arrested on 24 March 2011, age: 26, Banker/ football player for the bank team
Detention and forced disappearance
The Families of the detainees were not notified about where their sons were being held, nor were they given any information about them or the charges against them for about two months after their arrest, despite their repeated questioning about their sons at detention centers around Bahrain. Also, their lawyers were not able to attend any of the investigation sessions with them. They were only able to see them in the first session of their trial at the military court, which was held about two months after their arrest on 24 March 2011. They were notified of their trial less than 12 hours in advance, which made it difficult to appoint a lawyer for some of the defendants in the first court session.
Torture and degrading treatment
The detainees appeared in the session of the first trial in a state of physical weakness and worn clothes, beside some injuries and bruises that had just healed as apparent on their bodies. All the defendants said that they were subjected to torture and degrading treatment to force them to sign confessions blindfolded, and without knowing the content of it. They defendants only knew about the charges against them after the beginning of their trial.
Sayed Hadi Nasser Al-Alawi was subjected to torture while blindfolded in the first two weeks of detention according to the lawyer's statement at the court and as based on the coroner report, including extinguishing cigarettes on his body, hanging by the hands in the ceiling for days, and beating over his body with electric wire and electric shocks. The same patterns of torture were applied on Abdullah Al-Hamad, in addition to beatings with plastic pipes, spitting in the mouth, punching, kicking, and insults. According to the statement of his wife, the effects of the electric shocks were still visible in his back and his head when they visited him on 24 May 2011.
The similar way of torture was also repeated in the statement of the detainee Ismail Abbas, who said that he had been subjected to hanging, electric shock, beatings with whips and plastic pipes, spitting in the mouth, punching, kicking and insults for more than 20 days.
The detainee Hussain Al-Saffar was detained for a week after his arrest in a separate room after entirely removing his clothes, where he was severely beaten and insulted beside the continuous humiliation of his doctrine. During this period, he was not allowed to sit or sleep as he was forced to stand throughout the week and was allowed to have only one meal a day. He was also prevented from using the bathroom and was forced to relieve himself in the same room. Furthermore he was subjected to torture after that during the investigation period, during which the Jordanian officer Issa Al-Majali was the investigator, where he was stripped naked and threatened with sexual harassment and rape. He was also handcuffed to the back and hung from the legs upside down, subjected to beatings on his legs with wood pieces and electric wires which led his right leg to break. He was also beaten on the back, buttocks, upper thigh and abdomen with electric cables and wood pieces.
Consequent to the severe beating on the face and head of the detainee, his nose was broken and bleeding, and three of his front teeth were broken.This also resulted in hearing problems as he became unable to hear clearly from his left ear, and also suffered severe pain in the back and disc disease shortly after the arrest. He was also subjected to electric shocks, suffocation and muting breath with water, and forced to stand blindfolded and handcuffed to the back for 15 days consecutively with severe beatings to the level of fainting, sleep deprivation and not allowing him the use of the bathroom. As a result of the severe psychological torture and humiliation of the doctrine and religion, and verbal abuse and humiliation, the arrested suffered psychological problems, a mental depression and the desire to die, according to the testimony of his family. He was also forced to swallow some pills that he did not know as he was screaming in pain as a result of torture, and those pills were causing him hallucinations and dizziness. The effects of torture were proved in the coroner medical report and X-rays taken by the Fort Hospital (prison hospital). The torture to which Hussain Al-Saffar was exposed to was not only during his detention in the custody of the criminal investigation but he was also tortured after being taken for investigation in the military prosecution.
The detainee Nader AL-Orayedh stated that he had been kicked and beaten while he was blindfolded and handcuffed and held in solitary confinement for a long time that he could not determine the duration, and he was also suspended from his hands for long time until he had shoulder dislocation and swollen wrists from the handcuffs. Additionally, the investigation was undertaken with him when he was laid on his stomach and the investigator sitting on his back. The investigator also used to climb on a high place and jump directly onto the back of the detainee with the full weight of his body. The detainee was also beaten on his back, his legs and his head with a dry rod, and he was beaten by large number of police officers at one time. He was forced to stand for long periods and threatened to be killed and thrown into the sea so that no one knows about him. He was also deprived of food and drink for three days.
The detainee Tawfiq AL-Qassab stated that he was beaten severely, including beatings on the sensitive parts of his body. He was also suspended and banned from eating, drinking, and going to the toilet. Besides that he was injected with painkillers.
The detainee Jawad Abdul Nabi stated that he was forced to stand for 14 days and deprived of food and drink. He was also subjected to electric shocks, suspension from the legs, and beating by various tools in all parts of the body. The effects of torture have been documented in the coroner report.
The officer Fawaz Al-Ammadi who work with the criminal investigations department is one of those responsible for the torture of detainees according to their statements, however he attended the court as a prosecution witness against some of the defendants.
Military Court Hearings
The trial began on May 24, 2011 in the Court of National Safety (military) in direct violation of the right of the accused to have a fair trial in a court specified to each of them and all of the defendants were civilians. Some of the defendants were not able to appoint a lawyer for the first hearing for which the trial was deferred. After 4 other sessions verdicts were issued on 3 October 2011 sentencing 14 defendants to life imprisonment and enforcing the verdicts on 11 out of them, of who are still in prison based on the testimony of two witnesses, one of which was the investigation officer, who had taken confessions from defendants by torture. He denied that confessions were taken by forcing the defendants to sign under the pressure of torture, and without reading them, while the court ignored the statements of all the defense witnesses in spite of listening to their testimony. The prosecution did not provide any physical evidence to convict the defendants.The court did not make any consideration of the defects in the legal proceedings during the arrest, investigation or the allegations of torture, however, all the defendants were given the same judgment (life imprisonment) without determining the degree of responsibility of each of them in the considered crime, as it is usual in such cases.
The trial involved several other violations of the right of the accused to a fair trial, as the court changed the description of the case from "deliberate murder" to "beating led to death for terrorist purposes" without notifying the defendants or the lawyers about the change until the time of the hearing in which the judgment was issued, which negated the right of the defendants and lawyers in the provision of new defenses based on the change of the case description, despite the large difference between the charges. The lawyers were not able to see the list of prosecution from the court till after reading the charges in the first session of the trial. The lawyers also found it hard to meet their clients before the first session; they were only allowed to meet them for 5 minutes by the military judge.
The detainees were judged based on the penal code and the Terrorism law of 2006, which is a law that has been condemned by many international organizations including the United Nations for its lack of the minimum standards of human rights. This law was used since its issuance against activists and political prisoners, for the suppression of peaceful movements that began to escalate in the recent years calling for reform of the democratic process.
Despite referring the case to the civilian Criminal Court of Appeal, however, the considered case was still based on the invalid investigations of the military prosecution, where the third hearing will be held in April 30 2012.
Weakness in the construction of the case
What is of concern is that the harsh military rule has been issued in a case that constitutes weakness in many of its pillars, as a result of ignoring to do any serious investigations by the military prosecution into the incident and its reliance on torture. This is because there was no report in the case files about the scene of the crime by the criminal investigation, or any evidence collected from the place of the supposed crime, or photos or fingerprints that may reveal the identity of the person who made the crime. Also, the location and address of the crime place remained a mystery until the testimony of two witnesses, in which they provided contradicting statements on the address, the time and the crime scene.
The statements of the prosecution witnesses in the court were contradictory about the place of death of the victim; where one of them confirmed that the death of the victim happened inside the victim’s apartment on the second floor of the building where he lived, however the second prosecution witness stated that the victim’s death occurred in the street after he tried to escape and from a distance. Also, the statement of the investigative officer (witness) was that the attack on the victim was by sharp objects such as knives, swords, daggers and skewers, while the coroner reached a result in his report that there were no effects of swords or other sharp instrument and that the injuries were bruises in nature that occurred due to the clashes and friction.
While BCHR reiterates its condemnation of all acts of violence and stresses the importance of respecting the inherent human right to life and the need to hold accountable anyone who attacks that right, but the progress of the case of Manama youth did not show the concern of the authorities in determining the real details of the case of the attack and getting the actual offenders. However, it seems that the case of Manama youth is one model for a number of criminal cases exploited or fabricated by the military prosecution, without conducting any serious investigation into the details, but to involve tens of peaceful protesters into the case without any evidence in order to distort the image of the peaceful protest movement and to justify the fierce crackdown. In this case, the unfair military courts joined the military prosecution to pass the most severe judgment that reached a sentence to life imprisonment in those cases, without the existence of any basis or physical evidence.
Also, the continuation of the civilian court in considering these cases on the basis of the false investigations of the military prosecution after confirming its resort to extracting confessions under torture on a large scale, is considered in itself a violation of the defendants rights in obtaining guarantees for a fair trial, which is a continuation of the approach of passing retaliating judgments through military or civilian courts without any concern of achieving justice.
Accordingly, Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the following:
1 - The immediate release of the 11 defendants who are imprisoned based on unjust judgments in the case. Also, release all the detainees imprisoned regarding the events of unrest last year who did not have the opportunity for a fair trial after involving them in criminal cases that lack evidence apart from confessions extracted under torture, and which was confirmed in the report of the BICI Commission of Inquiry, which announced the unfairness of the military court and confirmed that the defendants were tortured.
2 – Canceling all the ongoing trials in the civilian courts, which rely on constitutionally invalid military investigations, and which are incompatible with the right of civilians to have their cases in the judicial bodies and in competent courts of their own.
3 – To re-investigate the incident of the victim fairly, impartially, and independently, as well as the rest of the incidents of violence and abuse that took place, and under the supervision of an independent and relevant civil society institution.
4 - Guaranteeing the international standards in relation to the arrest, investigation and fair trials of those detained on charges relevant to such incident, and ensuring the integrity and independence of the judiciary, and the right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court that meets all the objective conditions for a fair trial.
5 – Conducting a fair and impartial investigation of all allegations of torture raised by these defendants and other defendants in the background issues whether political or security-wise, and bringing those responsible to justice while redressing to victims.
6 - To stop exploiting civilian courts and using them in favor of the regime and as means for revenge from the opposition who's only crime was demanding freedom and democracy.