Prosecuting Torture Perpetrators

Torture allegations were always one of the most worrying issues in Bahrain’s human rights file. Human rights organizations have documented these violations; and this issue was also the centre of attention for Bahraini civil society organizations. Bahrain lacks an independent mechanism for investigating torture allegations and persecuting those responsible. This file has taken its legal path since the investigations conducted by Bassiouni’s Committee and its recommendations. There are three main points relating to this file:

Firstly- the existence of torture and ill treatment cases has been confirmed by the Government after Bassiouni’s report had proven the existence of such cases.

Secondly- this relates to the need for preventative mechanisms against torture in the future through the introduction of new legislations. These mechanisms have been discussed in this BHRM issue, despite the fact these mechanisms remain incomplete.

Thirdly- the follow up procedures after admitting the existence of torture include conducting investigations, holding those responsible accountable and compensating the victims. All these points were stated in Bassiouni’s report and represent a real test to the seriousness of Bahraini authorities in combating torture.

To prove its seriousness in combating torture, the Government took many steps and opened relatively transparent investigations, for example:

On 2 April 2012, the Head of the Special Investigations Unit in the Public Prosecution Nawaf Abdullah Hamzah stated that in compliance with BICI’s recommendations, the Public Prosecution has recieved from the Ministry of Interior and the National Security Agency all cases pertaining to fatalities and human rights violations including complaints and allegations of torture and mistreatment, explaining that the number of such cases pertaining to deaths reached fifteen complaints meanwhile the number of other cases and complaints pertaining to allegations of human rights violations reached 107 cases.

Mr. Hamzah asserted the Public Prosecution’s keenness on compliance with the same governmental methodology in fully, effectively and transparently implementing BICI’s recommendations and that the Public Prosecutor Dr. Ali bin Fadhl Al-Buainain decided taking a series of actions aimed at finalizing current investigations as soon as possible in accordance with regional and international human rights and judicial standards.

He added that the first of these decisions was the creation of a Special Investigations Unit inside the Public Prosecution office charged with examining all investigations, complaints and reports of fatalities, torture and gross human rights violations in the aftermath of the February-March 2011 incidents and to take actions in regards thereof.

The Public Prosecutor issued Resolution No.: (8) dated 27/2/2012 stipulating the formation of the Unit to be presided over by one of the senior chiefs of prosecution and membership of seven chiefs and members of the Public Prosecution. The Unit has actually begun to perform its assigned duties. And as regards to how complaints and reports could be lodged by individuals complaining from instances of torture or human rights violations, the Public Prosecution emphasized that all citizens have the right to directly lodge their complaints with the Unit in the Public Prosecution premises or to any of the Penal Prosecution offices which still do receive such type of complaints and reports in order to take preliminary actions, including immediate medical check up by forensic doctors, in compliance with the provisions of Article (12) of the Anti-Torture Agreement and the provisions of Istanbul Protocol for Investigation.

The Public Prosecution is committed to complete transparency, and therefore, the Public Prosecutor decided to issue a comprehensive progress statement on the first week of every month of the work done by the Special Investigations Unit regarding allegations of torture or gross human rights violations.

On 8 May 2012, the Council of Ministers discussed a draft law to amend some provisions in the Law of Criminal Procedures in order to protect individuals filing torture complains against revenge in compliance of Bassiouni’s recommendation No (1719).

On 4 May 2012, Hamza also said that they have recently interrogated 56 of the defendants and referred nine cases to the competent courts, stressing that the unit continues to make every effort to accommodate the growing number of new complaints as well as what has been referred to by the Ministry of Interior and National Security.

On 4 June 2012, Hamza confirmed that the Special Investigations Unit in the Public Prosecution has proceeded with its investigations efforts and considered complaints submitted regarding torture and ill-treatment.

Special investigators continue to listen to statements from complainants and finished listening to 18 complainants in addition to 11 witnesses and that reliant upon these investigations the Unit interrogated 8 accused persons and informed them about charges raised versus them. The Special Investigations Unit received 10 new complaints last May and opened official investigation dossiers for all ten cases.

It is worth mentioning that accused persons are summoned in order to interrogate them regarding charges made against them. The unit is currently investigating into 37 new complaints in addition to 102 cases which had been referred last April from the Ministry of Interior and the National Security Agency.

It is also worth mentioning that the Public Prosecution has referred two policemen regarding two separate complaints in which the Unit had earlier on investigated and informed them about the charges against them in terms of physical assaulting of other persons and penalized the two policemen incarcerating each of them for 3 months.

On 2 July 2012, The Special Investigation Unit’s chief, Mr. Nawaf Abdullah Hamza, stated that the Public Prosecution questioned fifteen accused persons and informed them of charges against them. The Special Investigation Unit’s chief revealed that the unit received eleven new complaints during June 2012, pointing out that the accused persons were summoned, and that investigation with them is still underway on the charges made against them. The unit had earlier referred one policeman to the High Criminal Court and demanded? penalizing him in view of charges raised against him for having caused a permanent disability to a victim. The said court issued its verdict on the lawsuit on its session dated 25/6/2012 penalizing the policeman with five years’ imprisonment. The Public prosecution also referred three accused persons to the same court in two separate lawsuits and demanded penalizing them on charges of an assault which resulted in causing death. The court, during the same session, decided to change records and described the charge as premeditated murder.