At a digital symposium by the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights (BFHR), the report "False Justice" was launched, with the participation of human rights and judicial figures
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- Attached is a copy of the report
The Bahrain Forum for Human Rights launches a report on the arbitrary sentences of the first half of the year, titled: “False Justice”
The BFHR launched its 2020 mid-term report on unfair trials in Bahrain, during a digital symposium that was broadcasted on a number of media and social media outlets on Saturday, July 18, with the participation of Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Tunisian judge, Faten Bousta Al-Faqih, and former vice president of the Truth and Dignity Commission and member of the Tunisian parliament, Zuhair Makhlouf.
The monitoring summary of the report “False Justice” said that in the first half of 2020, 78 arbitrary sentences were handed down by Bahraini courts to 74 men and 4 children, as the following distribution: 4 by the Lower Court, 27 by the High Court, 1 by an unspecified First Instance Court, 16 by the Court of Appeal, and 30 by the Court of Cassation. The sentences were as follows: 663 years and 10 months of imprisonment, including 12 life sentences, 5 sentences of revocation of nationalities, 4 death sentences, 2 acquittal verdicts, and a total of BD 800,000 of fines.
The following are the media statements of the event:
Ghina Al-Rebai: Bahraini courts excel at producing sentences of political persecution
The researcher at the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, who led the digital symposium, said that Bahraini courts excel at producing sentences of political persecution. She added that in most fabricated cases of politicians, there are case files based on confessions extracted under torture or prepared in retaliation for the political, human rights or legal stances of the victim of the arbitrary ruling.
“It is evident that the Bahraini authorities exploited a set of local legislations that they had introduced or amended after 2011 to increase the penalties of prisoners of conscience,” Al-Rebai said. “This is carried out through a non-independent judicial authority that has manipulated the issuance of death sentences, revocations of nationalities, life sentences and other arbitrary rulings against political prisoners. At the same time, it has not made any effort to investigate the detainees ’allegations about their torture and ill-treatment, through electric shock, sexual harassment and assault, severe beatings, or enforced disappearance, and in many cases, the judge does not care about any complaints related to torture,” she added.
“Here, we point out that through some of the laws that have been amended in contradiction to the International Bill of Human Rights, the Bahraini authorities wanted to find legal justifications for committing human rights violations, as is the case with the Anti-Terrorism Law, which enables the security authorities to commit the crime of enforced disappearance,” said Al-Rebai. “As will become clear, the job of a number of the official institutions created by the authorities – such as the National Institute for Human Rights and the Ombudsman – is to polish violations.”
Ibrahim Sarhan: False justice in Bahrain is not only a slogan, but a description of the judicial situation
For his part, Ibrahim Sarhan, the legal advisor of Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, said during his statement at the False Justice symposium that the arbitrary rulings being monitored are the tip of the iceberg of human rights violations in Bahrain.
“The authorities impose strict and systematic restrictions on civil society, in particular on human rights activists and lawyers, and families of detainees are not allowed to attend court hearings,” Sarhan said. “Bahrain violates criminal jurisprudence, which stresses that justice cannot be achieved through one degree of litigation, and the convict has the right to appeal and apply for cassation in case they were harmed.”
“There is no difference between the degrees of the criminal judiciary courts in Bahrain, where the verdict is upheld in all of them, the convicted is not heard out and the rulings issued against him are not corrected,” Sarhan said. “The appeals courts in Bahrain, specifically in the cases of torture victims, Hussein Moussa and Muhammad Ramadan, rely on the same findings of the first-degree courts, which confirms that there are no degrees of litigation in the country.”
“The main problem in Bahrain is the lack of independence of the judiciary, because the head of the judicial authority is the king, who appoints the judges in contradiction with the criteria, specifically expertise and competence,” Sarhan explained. “The judiciary of Bahrain has always had a single affiliation and its only criterion has been loyalty to the king, which confirms that its rulings are unfair according to human rights organizations.”
“False justice in Bahrain is not only a slogan, but a description of the judicial situation, because there is no concrete tangible evidence for the charges, and the accused do not have the right to defend themselves,” Sarhan further said. “The Criminal Procedures Law is violated in Bahrain, since thousands of rulings were issued based on secret sources and unknown prosecution witnesses.”
Sarhan pointed out that “in the case of the two victims, Hussein Moussa and Muhammad Ramadan, 9 security members testified about the occurrence of the incident and described it, but they did not talk about seeing any of the defendants, and that was built upon in the construction of the accusation.” Sarhan explained that the Special Investigation Unit submitted a report to the Public Prosecution that included an accurate geometric description of the torture marks on Muhammad Ramadan’s right leg (13 cm), and that was supposed to alter the outcome of the ruling, but the Court of Cassation ignored this report.
Sarhan added that the Court of Review cannot adopt the conclusion issued by the court of first instance, because it differs objectively and procedurally, and therefore this is a clear violation that international jurists must take into consideration. He further said that the death sentences issued against Ramadan and Moussa are unjust and intentional.
“For 9 years, the judiciary of Bahrain witnessed a state of contradiction and arbitrariness due to the absence of international supervision since the international human rights observers are prevented from entering the country,” Sarhan said. “The judicial situation in Bahrain is related to the political situation, so no judge can contradict the mood of the king,” Sarhan added, noting that “one of the just judges, an Egyptian, was fired because he acquitted political prisoners since he considered assembly a fundamental right.”
Sarhan pointed out that Salem Al-Kuwari is one of the judges who were forced to resign because he contradicted the mood of the king, and was removed from the judicial field.
Sumaya Al-Hajj Hassan: In issuing its rulings against Ramadan and Moussa, the court relied on confessions extracted under severe torture, sexual assault, beatings and sleep deprivation
Sumaya Al-Hajj Hassan, researcher at the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, said during her statement at the launch of the False Justice report that the arbitrary and politically-motivated death penalty is a violation of human rights. She explained that the death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, which are guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948.
She added that the documented unfair trials in Bahrain are also a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bahrain joined in 2006, and Bahrain violates the right to life, the right not to be tortured and the right to a fair trial.
Hassan pointed out that the death sentences between 2011 and 2019 reached 36 rulings, adding that the first death sentence in Bahrain was issued on February 14, 2011 against a number of detainees in a fabricated case known as the police killing case.
“During the 2011 emergency period, the Military Court of Appeal upheld its verdict in this case to execute Ali Abdullah Hassan Al-Singace and Abdulaziz Abdel-Reda Ibrahim Hussein, and it added a second death sentence against detainee Ali Youssef Abdel Wahab Al-Tawil, but it was commuted to life sentence after several appeals sessions,” Hassan added.
She further said that death sentences continued to be handed down in extremely politicized courts, adding that in 2015, death sentences were handed down to 7 innocent citizens accused in fabricated cases. On February 19, 2014, the court sentenced detainee Maher Al-Khabbaz to death, based on confessions extracted from him under torture and coercion, she added.
On April 29, 2015, the court sentenced detainee Salman Issa to death over the killing of a Pakistani policeman, despite the fact that activists confirmed that he had been systematically tortured from the moment of his abduction, Hassan explained. On January 15, 2017, Sami Mushaima, Abbas Al-Samie and Ali Al-Singace were executed, despite the fact that two were convicted during a mass trial marred by many violations of due process and by allegations of torture, she added.
Hassan pointed out that in July 2019, Ali Muhammad Hakim al-Arab and Ahmed Issa al-Mallali were executed despite allegations that they were severely tortured and forced to sign confessions. On June 15, 2020, the Court of Cassation upheld a death sentence against political detainee Zuhair Jassim, Hassan added.
According to human rights organizations, Ibrahim Jassim and the other defendants in the alleged case were severely tortured to force them to confess, Hassan further said. On July 13, 2020, the Bahraini Court of Cassation upheld the death sentences issued against prisoners of conscience and torture victims Muhammad Ramadan and Hussein Moussa, she added.
In sentencing Ramadan and Moussa, the court relied on confessions extracted under severe torture, sexual assault, beatings, sleep deprivation and other violations, Hassan said. She also explained that Bahraini security forces arrested Moussa, who was an employee at a hotel, and Ramadan, who was a security guard at Bahrain International Airport, in early 2014 after the killing of a policeman in a bombing in the village of Al-Dair.
She pointed out that the sentence issued in October 2018 abolishing the death sentence – based on the report of one of the doctors of the Ministry of Interior documenting injuries on Moussa's wrists, after international pressure to investigate complaints of torture against Ramadan – was ignored. Hassan added that an international report revealed that Moussa's injuries “raised suspicions of being assaulted and ill-treated in conjunction with his arrest, detention, and interrogation,” and concluded that it is suspected that a crime of torture was committed against Ramadan and Moussa “to force them to confess to the crime they were accused of.”
“Accepting evidence obtained under torture violates the right to a fair trial in accordance with legal procedures, and it is prohibited without exception,” Hassan said, adding “If torture is proven, the death penalty amounts to arbitrary killing.”
She stressed that what the court is doing violates the basic rules of criminal law, international treaties and agreements that Bahrain has signed in this regard.
Hussein Nooh: Bahraini courts rely on confessions extracted under 30 forms of torture
At the launch of the report #False_Justice, head of monitoring and documentation at the BFHR, Hussein Nooh, said that Bahraini security authorities use torture as one of the most prominent means of preparing false evidence in extracting confessions. He explained that the victim is unfairly prosecuted and handed down sentences up to life imprisonment, execution or other arbitrary punishments without abiding by the rules of interrogating the accused, pointing out that this is what happened with victims Muhammad Ramadan and Hussein Moussa.
Nooh added that there are 10 other victims of torture sentenced to arbitrary execution, and they are victims of unfair trials. He further said that instead of creating radical solutions to the human rights and political crisis, the authorities are deliberately devising methods of torture and ill-treatment as a form of intimidation to retaliate against the political opposition.
Nooh pointed out that there are more than 30 forms of torture, most notably the following:
• Denial of treatment and health care
• Short-term enforced disappearance
• Assaults of a sexual nature
• Standing for many hours
• Sleep deprivation
• Solitary confinement for days
• Exposing the victim to very high or low temperatures
• Slapping and punching
• Deprivation of food and water
• Sectarian insults and swearing
• Threatening to sexually assault the victim or their family
• Deprivation of using the toilet and bathing
• Beating with hands and hard objects
• Restraining in a harmful manner
• Detaining the victim for hours without justification before the start of the interrogation
• shooting the victim with a firearm in a way that is considered torture
• Denial of communication
• Publishing the victim's image in the media before their conviction
• Severe beatings
• Standing for many hours
• Forcing the victim to crawl on the floor
• Violating the right to perform religious rites in accordance with the victim’s belief
Nooh said that the security authorities use denial of treatment as one of the basic forms of torture, based on a systematic policy. He added that some of the consequences of the denial of treatment are: the death of the victim, suffering from chronic or incurable diseases, suffering from a disability such as loss of vision, and prolonged suffering from pain.
“Bahrain today is the capital of torture and suppression of freedoms, since there is complete ban on demonstrations, formal criminalization of freedom of expression, severe undermining of civil society and political parties, and spread of hate speech in the official media and on social media sites affiliated with the authorities,” Nooh concluded.
Tunisian Judge Faten Bousta Al-Faqih: Undermining political action in Bahrain has reached the point of exploiting the law in contravention of international legislation
Tunisian Judge Faten Bousta Al-Faqih spoke via video conference, at the launch of the report #False_Justice: Report on Arbitrary Sentences in Bahrain for the first half of 2020, about political isolation and exclusion from participation in political life.
Al-Faqih said, "The political isolation law that was proposed in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring revolutions oscillated between acceptance and rejection," adding that "most international laws and legislations prohibit political isolation, especially the International Covenant on Civil, Political and Economic Rights."
"Political equality is enshrined and rooted in international and regional laws, and it is strange that Bahrain does not allow the exercise of this right within the borders of its state," Al-Faqih explained. She also noted that "undermining political action in Bahrain has reached the point of exploiting the law in contravention of international legislation."
Al-Faqih pointed out that "there is a striking overlap between the political authority and the judicial authority in Bahrain, which calls for the question: Is there an independent judiciary in Bahrain? Is the judiciary free from any political pressure and interference?” She explained that “the judicial rulings in Bahrain are booby-trapped, since the decision-maker is not independent and there is no guarantee of a fair trial.”
“Do the criteria for appointing judges in Bahrain establish a democratic life?” Al-Faqih asked. “This calls for reviewing the internal system, especially that related to appointing judges, as a basic condition for the integrity of the judiciary. What the human rights situation in Bahrain is experiencing is restriction, isolation and exclusion, as there are vague laws and no clear legal texts,” Al-Faqih explained.
“It is paradoxical that Bahrain’s Constitution prohibits political and religious exclusion, but the ruling authorities have created a state of sectarian discrimination,” Al-Faqih said. “Can Bahrain take the lead in Arab human rights work when it arrests its citizens, undermines freedoms and political work, and prevents observers of human rights from entering its lands to monitor violations?”
Zuhair Makhlouf: The aim of the arbitrary procedural and legislative restrictions imposed by the authorities is to encircle the freedom of political action
Former vice president of the Truth and Dignity Commission, member of the Tunisian parliament, and human rights advisor to the BFHR, Zuhair Makhlouf, participated, via video conference, in the launch of the False Justice Report.
Makhlouf spoke about Bahrain’s failure to fulfill its international obligations under international human rights laws, particularly the right to freedom of association, noting that the aim of the arbitrary procedural and legislative restrictions imposed by the authorities is to encircle political action.
Makhlouf stated that the dissolution of Al-Wefaq and Wa'ad societies and the imprisonment of Sheikh Ali Salman, Ibrahim Sharif and other leaders of political societies aimed at scaring citizens of all groups, especially Shiites, from engaging in political work.
“Bahrain dissolved more than 30 civil and political societies between 2011 and 2017 – including societies that dissolved themselves voluntarily, and others that were dissolved by the authorities for political reasons such as Al-Wefaq and Wa’ad – and at the beginning of 2020, the Ministry of Labor issued new arbitrary measures to stifle political action,” Makhlouf explained.
Makhlouf also pointed out that political isolation systematically targeted political action figures, with intimidation, imprisonment, deportation, or revocation of nationality.
Makhlouf said that the security behavior of the authorities and the arbitrary rulings against activists shut down political life in Bahrain, noting that the security raid on the home of political activist Zakia Al-Barboury and the forced disappearance and torture she was subjected to, is a surprising behavior.
Makhlouf further said that besieging opinion activists and targeting their families aims at scaring citizens from political action, explaining that political activists in Bahrain have been subjected to various types of human rights violations and torture, and their confessions have been extracted under torture.
Makhlouf noted that the death sentence against torture victims confirms the oppressive behavior of the Bahraini regime, which requires relentless efforts in the field of peaceful human rights action as well as exposing the abuses before the international community. In addition, Makhlouf called on human rights activists and politicians around the world to support and lift the isolation of Bahraini activists and pressure the Bahraini authorities to engage with citizens.
Makhlouf added that all human rights organizations, in all forums, have agreed that Bahrain's repressive behavior confirms its failure to fulfill its obligations.