After the reinstatement of the death sentence of two Bahraini pro-democracy activists, human rights groups pressured the UK government to intervene, claiming the activists were convicted based on confessions extracted through torture.
Mohammed Ramadhan, a 37-year-old father of three and airport security guard, and Husain Moosa, 34, a hotel driver, were convicted in 2014 over the killing of a police officer in a bomb attack.
On Monday Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld the convictions and reinstated the death penalty for both men.
However, Amnesty International and a UK-based pro-opposition activist group, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), say both men were tortured to extract false confessions and were subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation and other abuses.
Under mounting international pressure, the allegations were initially investigated by two Bahraini security bodies – the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and the prisons ombudsman – that have been funded and supported by the UK government.
But the SIU dismissed the claims, enabling Bahrain’s appeals court to rely on the torture confession when reimposing the death sentences in January.
The probe by the SIU and the ombudsman, which have received millions of pounds worth of training paid for by UK taxpayers, was denounced by independent experts at the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims as “seriously flawed” because it overlooked what the body said was clear medical evidence of abuse.
All legal options are now exhausted, and both men are at risk of execution without notice. In previous cases, the condemned have faced the firing squad.
“Today’s verdict is yet another dark stain in the struggle for human rights in Bahrain … This horrendous injustice could not have happened without the tacit acceptance of Bahrain’s western allies,” Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at Bird, said in a statement.
Ahead of Monday’s decision, 46 MPs and peers signed an open letter calling on the UK government to urgently intervene in the case.
“The UK government has consistently failed to criticise due process violations in their trial or acknowledge abuses Mohammed and Husain have suffered. Just last week, the Foreign Office said it ‘welcomed’ the work of SIU and [the ombudsman],” the letter reads.
“The persistence of torture and the significant rise in the use of the death penalty since 2017 in Bahrain show that this soft-touch approach has not worked, and a further 10 inmates are at imminent risk of execution.”
Mr. Ramadhan and Mr. Moosa participated in the pro-democracy protest of 2011 before their arrest three years later over the bombing in al-Deir, a village northeast of Manama. T
The two said they were stripped in detention, lashed with plastic pipes and forced to listen to the screams of other inmates being tortured for days. Mr. Moosa said his genitals were kicked and beaten until he “confessed” to the killing.
Although Mr. Moosa recanted his confession at trial, saying it was coerced, the court relied on it to sentence both him and his co-defendant, Mr. Ramadhan, to death.
Bahrain’s use of the death penalty and torture has soared at “an alarming” rate over the last few years, according to Reprieve. Bahrain denies all allegations of torture made against it.
Currently, according to Bird, 26 people are on death row in Bahrain.
Bahrain, which is led by a Sunni Muslim royal family but has a Shi’ite majority population, has been clamping down on dissent since 2011 when it quashed protests with Saudi help.
Home to a major UK naval base, the Gulf island kingdom has prosecuted and revoked the citizenship of hundreds of people in mass trials. Most opposition figures and human rights activists are jailed or have fled. (Source: Independent UK)