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Bahraini royal stripped of UK diplomatic immunity

October 7, 2014 at 2:15 pm

A British high court decision delivered on Tuesday, 7 October has stripped a senior member of the Bahraini ruling family of diplomatic immunity in the UK.

Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, one of the king’s sons is alleged to have tortured prisoners in a Bahraini jail in March 2011.

Earlier this year, the court had lifted confidentiality restrictions that had prevented Prince Nasser being named in a case challenging a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that he is immune from prosecution.

The case against the prince was brought by a client known only as FF, a Bahraini living in the UK who was given and will continue to have anonymity as ordered by the court “to ensure that the identity of the Claimant is not disclosed and to keep confidential certain information relating to third parties.”

The prince, in his capacity as a commander of the Royal Guard is alleged to have tortured two Shia clerics and at least one other individual while they were in detention after a popular uprising against the ruling al Khalifa family was crushed in 2011.

According to a dossier assembled by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and cited in court documents, Prince Nasser was “personally responsible for at least three incidents of torture against three of fourteen political prisoners held at Jau prison: Sheikh Al-Meqdad, Sheikh Al-Mahroos and Hassan Jawad”.

The incidents are said to have happened following the crushing of an anti-government uprising. Dozens were killed, thousands imprisoned and thousands more sacked from their jobs, the overwhelming majority of victims being Shia Muslims.

The Bahraini ruling family, the al Khalifas are Sunni Muslims in a country where the majority indigenous population are Shia.

An independent panel of human rights experts appointed by King Hamad and headed by the Egyptian law professor Cherif Bassiouni found that members of the police and security services were involved in torture of detainees, in what it called “clear patterns of behaviour by certain government agencies.”

Their report, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) noted:

“The purpose of mistreatment was to obtain statements or confessions incriminating the detainee in question. In other cases, the purpose was to obtain statements from the detainee with a view to using the statements against other individuals. Mistreatment was also used for the purposes of retribution and punishment.”

King Hamad accepted the findings of the BICI report in full.

His son who also heads up the Bahrain Olympic Committee has consistently denied the allegations that he was personally involved in torturing prisoners.

In May, the ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement that said in part ” Bahrain considers (the allegations) unfounded,false and politically motivated. Bahrain is not party to the litigation. It would be inappropriate for Bahrain to comment further as it has never sought from the English Courts either anonymity, or sovereign immunity, for anyone in respect of this case.”

The prince has been a frequent visitor to Britain. In May of this year he was a guest of honour at the Royal Windsor Horse Show at which Queen Elizabeth presided.

Lawyers for FF said the police could now carry out an investigation the next time Prince Nasser entered the country.

However a Bahrain government spokeswoman said: “The Crown Prosecution Service said the decision on immunity was academic as it had solid fact-related grounds for the basis on which it determined it could not prosecute Sheikh Nasser.

“All this was made plain in court today. In short, the situation has not, and will not, change as there is no evidence for the allegations.”

Report by Bill Law