Photo: Torture marks on body of blogger Zakariya Al-Asheeri

13 Mar 2013

Bahrain Center for Human Rights express its grave concern over the prevailing culture of impunity as the Bahraini court acquits all accused in the torture to death of blogger Zakariya Al-Asheeri in the police custody after a show trial that lasted over one year. On the 12th of March 2013 the first higher criminal court acquitted 5 policemen charged of a beating that lead to the death of blogger Zakariya Rashid Hassan Al Asheeri (40 years old) held under police custody in April 2011. Two of the five men are accused of beating Al Asheeri, causing injuries leading to his death, while the other three are charged with failure to report the crime. All five were cleared from the charges related to Asheeri although two of them were convicted for beating to death another detainee, Ali Saqer.

Zakariya AlAsheri, moderator of 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. His body was handed to his family covered with marks of torture. At that time the government of Bahrain refused all reports of torture and alleged that he had died of sickle cell anaemia complications.

The same five policemen were also accused in the beating that led to the death of another detainee, Ali Saqer. The court has found two of them guilty in the death of Saqer and has sentenced them to 10 years in prison. They have not attended the ruling hearing and were not detained.

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. 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 natural causes 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.

Both the deaths of Al Asheeri and Saqer were documented and confirmed as attributed to torture in the BICI report. (find details below)

The trial started more than one year ago on the 11th of January 2012. The accused policemen were not detained and have attended some sessions in their uniforms, which indicate that they were still on duty and are not considered a threat to the rest of detainees.

The culture of impunity that is supported by all governmental entities, especially the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice, has encouraged MOI officers to continue violating the rights of citizens in Bahrain with violence facing no consequences. Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the regime in Bahrain to put measures in place to hold the officers and the head of MOI responsible for the extra-judicial killings accountable for their crimes according to the law and urges the international community to hold Bahrain’s regime accountable for the severe violations of human rights.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights strongly demands:

1. 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. 2. To put on trial all ministers responsible for torture, and/or having 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. 3. That the government of Bahrain signs the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in order to strengthen legal accountability for torturers.

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.”