Government claims it has "zero-tolerance" policy towards torture; evidence suggests otherwise

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The office of Sameera Rajab, the Government's official spokesperson, has told Reuters that Bahrain has a "zero-tolerance" policy towards torture. However, evidence over the past days, weeks, months and even years, suggests otherwise. The following is just a small selection of examples of both torture and the culture of impunity that surrounds the security forces:

Media fixer and blogger Mohamed Hassan was arrested on July 31st. On August 7th, he told his lawyer AbdulAziz Moussa that he had been tortured whilst in custody. His lawyer tweeted that he had seen marks of torture on Hassan's body. On August 8th, Moussa was also arrested.


Human rights defender Naji Fateel was arrested on May 2nd. He appeared in court on July 2nd and removed his shirt to show the judge marks of torture on his back. Fateel alleges that he was subject to electrocution, beating, simulated drowning, hanging from his hands, sexual harassment, enforced standing, sleep deprivation, sectarian harassment and threats against his wife. On July 11th, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights published these images of Fateel, showing the markings on his back:

Frontline Defenders attended Fateel's most recent hearing on July 25th. They "condemned the trial", saying that it failed "to meet internationally accepted legal standards and due process guarantee".


On July 1st, Bahrain's Prime Minister visited police officer Mubarak bin Huwail, who had just been acquitted on charges relating to the torture of six medics in 2011. The Prime Minister told Huwail: "I am here to thank you, Mubarak, for your patience and good work." He also said to the people present: "These laws cannot be applied to you. No one can touch this bond. Whoever applies these laws against you is applying them against us. We are one body."


On June 21st, Manama appeal court upheld the decision to acquit Police Lt. Sarah Al-Moosa on charges of torturing France 24 journalist Nazeeha Saeed. Saeed was tortured at a police station on May 22nd, 2011. Reporters Without Borders and Media Defence League Initiative said of the acquittal:
The appeal court’s decision to confirm the police officer’s acquittal clearly shows the lack of independence of the Bahraini judicial system and the duplicitous nature of the government’s concern for its image in the eyes of the international community.

On April 20th, Nafeesa al-Asfoor and Rayhana al-Mosawi were arrested. The two women allege that they were tortured in custody. Rights groups told Human Rights Watch that one woman was "subjected to electro-shocks and forced to sign a confession." Al-Mosawi has also alleged that whilst in detention, she was forced to strip naked and stand by an open door where she was visible to passersby.


In April 2013, REDRESS and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims published a report entitled: "Bahrain: Fundamental reform or torture without end?" The executive summary reads in part:
The report concludes that torture and ill-treatment continue, and that obligations towards victims have not been met.

Although there have been some prosecutions of officials involved in human rights violations, the investigations and prosecutions have failed to deal with high level involvement and command responsibility. They have in a number of cases been brought on lesser charges and some cases have resulted in acquittals despite clear evidence of wrongful death, including as a result of torture.

Also in April 2013, the US State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor released its annual report for 2012. The section on torture in Bahrain reads in part:
The constitution prohibits “harm[ing] an accused person physically or mentally.” Nevertheless, domestic and international human rights organizations reported numerous instances of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Detainees reported to local human rights activists that security officials continued to use abusive tactics. They alleged that security officials beat them, sometimes while they were blindfolded, and often with clubs, whips, or rubber hoses. Officials reportedly placed detainees in solitary confinement, sometimes in extreme temperatures, and burned body parts with lighters. Detainees claimed officials forced shoes into their mouths, spit on them, or spit into their mouths. Other reports noted a similar pattern of abuse following arrest, including beating without interrogation, beating with interrogation, harassment, and intimidation without further physical abuse. Most detainees were Shia.

Local human rights groups, including the unlicensed Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), and the FHRD reported that authorities beat and tortured detainees during interrogations and denied medical treatment to injured or ill detainees. Reports indicated that the MOI interrogated detainees about illegal protest activity. Detainees reported mistreatment at official interrogation facilities. The most frequently cited locations for mistreatment included the following MOI facilities: the Adliya Criminal Investigation Division (CID), Isa Town Detention Center for Women, Dry Dock Detention Center, and Jaw Prison. Other official detention facilities less commonly cited included police stations in Al Rifaa, Al Qudaibiya, Samaheej, Al Nuaim, Nabih Saleh, Al Budaiya, and Sitra.

Local human rights groups reported that detainees also complained of abuse and torture at various temporary facilities, including a youth hostel and a tent near the Exhibition Center in the Capital Governorate, an equestrian center in the Northern Governorate, and other locations in the Central and Muharraq governorates. These unregistered detention centers did not comply with the BICI recommendations that require placing cameras and recording equipment in all official detention facilities. The most common techniques included blindfolding detainees; beating, punching, and hitting them with rubber hoses, cables, metal, wooden planks or other objects; electric shock; exposure to extreme temperatures; stress positions; verbal abuse; threats to rape the detainee or family members; sexual assault; preventing detainees from praying; sleep deprivation; and insulting the detainee’s religious sect (Shia). Victims also reported security officials used physical and psychological mistreatment to extract confessions and statements under duress or as retribution and punishment. Detainees also reported security forces abused them in their homes.

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