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Bahrain: Court upholds death sentences against torture victims

A court in Bahrain, 29 November 2019 [Twitter]
Bahrain's Ministry of Justice, 29 November 2019 [Twitter]

Bahrain’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, has today upheld the death sentences against Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa over their involvement in a 2014 bomb attack that killed one police officer.

Ramadan and Moosa could now face death by firing squad following approval from Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa. The pair were convicted in late 2014 alongside ten fellow Bahrainis who each received sentences between six years and life imprisonment.

According to the court, Ramadan and Moosa played leading roles in the bomb attack in early 2014 and were handed death penalties as a result. In 2018, however, the ruling was overturned after a human rights oversight body found both men had been subjected to torture including sexual assault, beatings and sleep deprivation, in order to extract confessions.

Both men were arrested without warrants and prevented from seeing their lawyers before being handed death sentences. However, the appeals court reinstated the convictions, and death sentences, in January this year, despite concerns Ramadan and Moosa faced an unfair trial.

The Human Rights Watch has called for the pair to be released, or to face a fair retrial. Instead, Bahrain’s highest court has upheld the verdict. Today’s hearing was the final opportunity for the pair to appeal against their sentences.

Talking to the British-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) after the verdict today, Mohammed’s wife Zainab, who was barred from entering the courtroom with her husband’s lawyer this morning, said:

The terror of knowing that my husband can be executed by firing squad at any moment without proper notice is tearing me apart. I don’t know how I will be able to tell my three children that their father is never coming home. 

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According to BIRD there are currently 26 detainees on death row in Bahrain, with 12 of those at risk of imminent execution.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD commented: “Today’s verdict is yet another dark stain in the struggle for human rights in Bahrain, demonstrating the regime’s iron grip over the country’s corrupt judiciary. This horrendous injustice could not have happened without the tacit acceptance of Bahrain’s western allies.”

Bahrain has long faced criticism of its human rights record and has received £6.5 million ($8.2 billion) in “technical assistance” to train the Gulf state’s police officers and prison guards on human rights issues and to establish institutions to investigate allegations of torture, from Britain since 2012.

Nevertheless, human rights watchdogs claim the number of recorded violations has increased since 2012. Some say this makes the UK complicit in Bahrain’s human rights abuses.

Last week, Sir Peter Bottomley MP asked the British government, in an urgent question, whether it would publicly state if it would raise Ramadan and Moosa’s cases with the Bahraini authorities over human rights concerns.

James Cleverly MP, the Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, told the house, “that if the death penalties are upheld through the court of cassation process, that the UK will both publicly and loudly remind Bahrain of our opposition to the death penalty.” Cleverly promised to do so at the “official and ministerial” level.

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