7 stories of shocking injustice: Bahrain after the ‘Arab Spring’
Five years ago, people in Bahrain rose up in protest to demand reform, but were met with violence from security forces. Since then, the authorities have continued to arrest, torture and intimidate people who speak out.
1. Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima: Killed during protests but still no justice
Ali Mushaima was the first protester to be killed during the uprising in Bahrain after being shot on 14 February 2011. Another protester, Fadhel al-Matrouk, was shot dead at Ali Mushaima’s funeral the next day. A security officer was sentenced to seven years in prison for Ali Mushaima’s death, but this was reduced on appeal to three years. In May 2015, the officer was pardoned under a royal decree and released early. Two officers were also tried for causing Fadhel al-Matrouk’s death, but were acquitted after the court found they had “acted in self-defence”.
2. Hani ‘Abdelaziz’ Abdullah Jumaa: Shot dead but police officer’s sentence reduced
Hani ‘Abdelaziz’ Abdullah Jumaa,32, was shot three times in the village of Bilad al-Qadeem on 19 March 2011. A police officer was sentenced to seven years in prison for his death, but this was reduced on appeal to six months in part because the court said the officer had “acted in self-defence”.
3. Zakariya al-‘Asheri: Tortured and died in custody but police walked free
Zakariya al-‘Asheri, 40, died in prison in April 2011 after being arrested for taking a leading role in the protests. One witness detained with him said that they had been blindfolded, handcuffed and ordered to lie on their stomachs. In the morning, Zakariya al-‘Asheri began hallucinating and banging on his cell door, and was then assaulted by the guards. The witness said he heard Zakariya al-‘Asheri screaming as officers beat him and that his screams became muffled. Two low-ranking police officers were charged with “assault resulting in unintentional death” and three were charged with “failure to report the crime” but all five were acquitted. At the trial, other witnesses said officers had stuffed a newspaper into al-‘Asheri’s mouth. Those responsible for his death have still not been identified or brought to justice.
4. Abdelkarim Al-Fakhrawi: Newspaper founder beaten to death in custody
Abdelkarim Al-Fakhrawi, 49, died on 11 April 2011 after being beaten to death while in the custody of Bahrain’s National Security Agency (NSA). He was a founder of Al Wasat newspaper, one of the few independent newspapers in Bahrain, and a member of a prominent political party. Two NSA officers were sentenced to seven years for his death, but this was reduced to three years on appeal.
5. Nazeeha Saeed: Journalist tortured by police officers
Journalist Nazeeha Saeed was arrested in May 2011 and accused of being part of a group that wanted to overthrow the monarchy, which she denied. A group of security officers then beat her with a hose-pipe, and punched and kicked her while she was blindfolded. A policewoman also gave her electric shocks and pushed her head down a toilet. One police officer was prosecuted but was acquitted – despite forensic and medical reports which all noted bruises on Nazeeha’s body, and two reports attributing the bruises to beatings with a long object. The investigation into her torture has now closed because of a “lack of evidence”.
6. Hussain Jawad: Human rights activist beaten and threatened with sexual abuse
Hussain Jawad, chairman of the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights, was arrested in February 2015 and questioned about his work with organizations including Amnesty International. He told us that, while in detention, he was beaten, blindfolded, handcuffed, prevented from going to the toilet, and threatened with sexual abuse. He also said he was forced to “confess” to the charges of “receiving money from home and abroad in order to support and finance subversive groups”. In December, he was sentenced to two years in prison on the basis of this “confession” and police statements. The authorities dropped the investigation into his alleged torture because of “lack of evidence”.
7. Ali Isa al Tajer: Lawyer’s brother stripped, beaten and deprived of sleep
Ali Isa al Tajer, the brother of a prominent human rights lawyer, was arrested in November 2015. He was locked up with no access to a lawyer for 25 days and eventually charged with “joining an illegal terrorist organization to overthrow the government” and “training individuals on the use of weapons for terrorist purposes”. He denied all charges and said he had been tortured to sign a “confession” he could not read as he was blindfolded. He said he had been kept naked for most of the 25 days, threatened with electric shocks, deprived of sleep and beaten all over his body, including his genitals. Ali is still in prison, suffering from the pain caused by his torture. Although his lawyer filed a complaint, none of the people responsible for Ali’s torture has been brought to justice.
Demand justice for Ali Isa al-Tajer
Tell the Bahraini authorities they must launch an urgent and independent investigation into his alleged torture, and completely disregard any “confessions” obtained through torture in proceedings against him.