Impunity Persists in Bahrain Four Years After Four Detainees Were Tortured to Death
By Juliette Suarez
Washington is considering lifting remaining arms restrictions on Bahrain even as serious human abuses persist. Reports of abuse at the infamous Jaw Prison are seeping out—part of a pattern of torture during the government’s crackdown on peaceful dissidents. Four years ago this month several detainees were tortured to death in custody, but no senior government official has been made accountable.
Hasan Jassim Mohamed Maki was pronounced dead on April 3, 2011 after six days of imprisonment. The local hospital, Salmaniya Medical Complex, did not provide a medical report, but Médecins Sans Frontières and Amnesty International confirmed that he had been attacked with sharp objects. The investigation commissioned by the Bahrain government itself, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), attributed Maki’s death to torture at the Dry Dock Detention Centre.
Ali Isa Ibrahim Saqer was declared dead at 11:15am on April 9, 2011 while in the custody of the Bahrain Minister of the Interior. His death certificate names his cause of death as hypovolemic shock, an abrupt decrease in blood circulation. Saqer had turned himself in to authorities four days earlier after the police raided his house several times and threatened his family. Five officers were charged, and two convicted. Although the BICI report states his death was caused by torture, the officers were convicted for “beating” Saqer, not torturing him. They were ordered to spend ten years imprisonment, but the sentence was later cut to two years.
Zakariya Rashid Hassan Al Asheri, a former opposition Member of Parliament, was arrested in his home on April 2, 2011, by Bahraini security forces. He died seven days later. His death certificate listed severe heart failure and cessation of breathing following complications from sickle cell anemia. His relatives said that although Asheri carried the disease, he had never suffered from it previously. A cellmate stated in the BICI report that all detainees had been blindfolded and handcuffed and forced to lie on their stomachs. He said that one morning Asheri began to hallucinate and shout. Prison guards entered his cell, and the witness could hear them beat him until his shouts became muffled and a guard said in Urdu, “he is dead.” The BICI report confirmed Asheri was tortured between April 6 and 9 and died from torture in Room Number 1 of the Dry Dock Detention Centre. Five men were charged with the beating related to Asheri’s death but later acquitted in March 2013.
Abdulkarim Ali Ahmed Fakhrawi was pronounced dead on April 11, 2011. He was a businessman, founder of Al Wasat newspaper. On April 2, 2011 police forces surrounded the home of a relative. The following day Fakhrawi went to the police station to resolve the issue. His family never saw him alive again. On April 12, a policewoman told the family he had arrived at the police station in poor health and died as a result of kidney failure. When family members went to collect Fakhrawi’s body, which showed clear marks of torture, they were told that if they took pictures they would “end up like him.” Several witnesses told the BICI that Fakhrawi was tortured in detention. The BICI report attributed his death to torture while in custody of the National Security Agency. Two officers received a sentence of seven years imprisonment, later reduced to three years. The court’s sole explanation was that “the court sees fit to grant clemency to the appellate.”
Bahrain’s failure to provide proper accountability for these deaths—and the current mistreatment of detainees in Jaw Prison (where another inmate was beaten to death in November 2014)—demonstrate why the United States shouldn’t fully resume arms sales. For more information what the United States can do to promote change in Bahrain, check out our blueprint, “How to Bring Stability to Bahrain.”