Bahrain: Court Upholds Death Sentence Based on Coerced Confessions
February 10, 2013
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern over the appeal court’s decision on 23 Jan 2013 to uphold the death sentence of Ali Yousef Abdul Wahab Al-Taweel (23 years old) who has been detained since April 2011, for the alleged crime of running over a policeman on 15 Mar 2011. The death sentence was initially ordered by a military court in Sep 2011.
Arrest, Detention and Torture
Ali AlTaweel was subjected to several human rights violations from the first moment of his arrest. On April 19th, 2011, he was staying at his sister’s house when it was attacked in an early morning raid. He was arrested by masked men in military and civilian clothing, and his hands were tied behind his back with a belt. When he asked why he is being arrested, the officer informed him that he would know after being beating and hung in the air. He was dragged and beaten in front of the neighbours. The officers covered his face with his clothes and hit him harshly and continuously during the ride in the car – he was struck repeatedly on his face, abdomen, back and pelvic area. In addition to the physical abuse, he was also verbally insulted.
At the first location where AlTaweel was detained, the Isa Town police station, Ali AlTaweel was reportedly subjected to torture for a continuous 13 hours where, during which time he was forced to confess to running over a policeman. AlTaweel came to know that he was selected for this accusation because another detainee gave his name saying that AlTaweel had a car with a smashed window. He was beaten with a hose on his feet, back and all over his body. He was deprived from sleeping, drinking water, eating food, going to toilet, and praying.
AlTaweel was then moved to the Criminal Investigation Department in Adliya where he was subjected to more torture. AlTaweel says that the official who gave the orders to torture him was Colonel Mubarak Bin Huwail – a person whose name was also mentioned by other torture victims, including tortured doctors. Bin Huwail is currently on trial for torturing medical professionals. See: www.muscatdaily.com/Archive/Opinion/We-were-blindfolded-handcuffed-and-tortured-Bahraini-medics
AlTaweel says that Bin Huwail tried to force him to confess to running over the policeman, and to say that he was incited by Shaikh Mohamed Habeeb AlMoqdad. He was beaten all over his body including on his genital area where he had a prior surgery. When he informed them of his previous surgery they increased beaten on that area. Under these conditions, AlTaweel gave many names as “inciters” including Ali AlShamlool who was later selected by the interrogators to be charged for inciting the crime. AlTaweel required a surgery for the damage he suffered due to beaten on his genital area. During his appeal trial in 2012 he attended the sessions in a wheel chair following this surgery.
AlTaweel was forced to sign confessions without being able to read them; AlTaweel stopped attending school in the 4th grade, and is therefore unable to read. He believes that his signature was forged on other statements by officers taking advantage of his illiteracy.
The military prosecutor never interrogated the two defendants. Their signatures were taken on pre-made statements. AlTaweel was then taken to the military prison (AlQurain) where beatings and insults continued, especially when the guards knew about his accusation, he was beaten on his head and back, and the ill-treatment continued until mid-June when the Bahraini commission of Inquiry (BICI) visited the prison.
According to his lawyer, AlTaweel was not allowed access to a lawyer during the first three hearings at the military court. He was also not allowed any family visits before his third hearing session. On 29 Sep 2011, the military court issued its verdict against Ali AlTaweel, and sentenced him to death. The second defendant, Ali Atteyat Allah Mahdi Shamlool, was sentenced to life imprisonment. AlTaweel was accused with “running over police officer Ahmed Ahmed Al-Muraisi on 15 Mar 2011 in Sitra”, while AlShamlool was accused with instigating the crime.
Since AlTaweel was moved to the Jaw prison after receiving the death sentence on 29 Sep 2011, he was placed in solitary confinement. He only leaves his cell during bi-weekly family visits. His lawyer fears that AlTaweel’s mental condition has been severely affected by the extended amount of time he has spent in solitary confinement, and believes that his sanity may be in danger.
Contradictions in the Circumstances Surrounding the Officer’s Death
• The court verdict states that the policeman died in Sitra. • The death certificate issued by Ministry of Health states that the policeman had died in Ma'ameer in a “car accident”. The place of death announcement is “East Riffa Health Centre”. • BICI report states that the policeman was run over by a car in the GCC Roundabout (Manama) [paragraph 885] and also stated that he died in Sitra and his death was confirmed at the Defence Force Hospital [Paragraph 1030]. In addition to the contradicting facts about the death location which cast doubt on the basis of the indictment, the prosecution has not provided any substantial evidence against the defendants. None of the witnesses saw or identified the defendants. The person responsible for torture of AlTaweel, Ben Huwail has testified against him at the military court, but has not appeared for the trial of appeal despite several notifications. This witness is currently undergoing a trial for torture of detained doctors, and his testimony against AlTaweel should therefore not be considered valid. (See: www.alwasatnews.com/3803/news/read/735380/1.html
On 23 Jan 2013 the court of appeal upheld the death sentence against Ali AlTaweel and the life sentence against Ali AlShamlool, ignoring all evidence of torture, including incidents documented by the BICI report. The court’s insistence on issuing a death sentence underlines the fact that this provision is politicized and subject to political considerations rather than the requirements of a fair trial.
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to protect Ali AlTaweel who was sentenced to death in an unfair trial, and appeals to them to:
1. Condemn the application of the death penalty against Ali AlTaweel, especially in the absence of a fair trial. 2. Demand for the Bahraini authorities to drop the politically motivated sentences and to unconditionally release all political prisoners, given the widespread practice of using torture to extract confessions as described by the BICI report. 3. Put an end to the use of torture in detention centres. 4. Call the Bahraini authorities to hold accountable anyone responsible in all torture cases carried out in detention centres in Bahrain, whether in the form of command, supervision, or knowledge of torture practices. 5. Request the Government of Bahrain to adhere to the Convention against Torture and implementing their commitments to the international obligations that it has signed.
Execution in Bahrain is carried out by a firing squad. The last implementation of the death sentence was in 2010 against the Bangladeshi Jassim Abdulrahman, who was convicted of murder. While two Pakistani and one Ethiopian nationals are waiting for the implementation of their death sentence. In December 2006, three Bangladeshis were executed after a period of ten years without a death sentence being executed. For more general information, see: deathpenaltyworldwide.org