February 8, 2010

II. Background

Bahrain, a small island nation, lies along the Persian Gulf coast of the Arabian Peninsula, linked to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia by a 25-kilometer causeway. The current population is approximately 800,000, of which just under half are Bahraini nationals, with the remainder comprising workers and professionals from abroad (mostly from other Arab countries or South Asia).[3] Bahraini nationals are almost all Muslims; while approximately 60 percent of them are Shia, the ruling Al Khalifa family is Sunni, and political control, including the security forces, is solidly in Sunni hands.

Bahrain was the site of the first Persian Gulf commercial oil discovery, in 1932. Bahrain’s production capacity is extremely modest compared with that of its neighbors, but its oil revenues (and longtime role as the eastern gateway to Saudi Arabia) allowed for the creation of a modern state apparatus prior to that of most neighboring states. In recent decades Bahrain has played a role as a financial services center, in competition with Dubai and other near neighbors.

Britain ruled Bahrain from 1868 until 1971, and Bahrain served as a base for the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. Today Bahrain is the headquarters of the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet and is a support base for US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Shia-Sunni sectarian divide is a major element in the country’s political dynamic. Shia spokespersons charge that although they are a solid majority of the citizenry they have been largely excluded from positions of significant authority, particularly in the political and security realms. The authorities dispute claims of systemic discrimination, but also are openly suspicious regarding the national loyalties of many Shia.[4] Notably, the internal security services are comprised of a high proportion of non-Bahrainis—Jordanians, Egyptians, and other Arabs as well as Pakistanis—almost all of whom are Sunni. Also, the Shia opposition claims, and the government denies, that Bahraini authorities recruit these (and other) non-Bahraini Sunnis to become citizens in an effort to alter the sectarian population balance.[5]

Bahrain’s political system is distinctly authoritarian. Following independence, a partially elected constituent assembly drew up a constitution, promulgated in 1972, that established a National Assembly, which was two-thirds elected. The country’s first elections were held in 1973. But just two years later, in 1975, the then-ruler, Shaikh Isa, dissolved the National Assembly after it refused to endorse a draconian state security law that, among other things, permitted arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention, and created a State Security Court that effectively suspended those portions of the constitution guaranteeing due process rights. In the midst of a subsequent political crisis in the 1990s, arising mainly from opposition demands to reinstate the National Assembly, the Bahraini information minister said that the National Assembly had been dissolved because it “hindered the government.”[6]

Bahrain undertook significant political reforms after Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa succeeded his father as ruler in March 1999.[7] These included abolishing the State Security Court, freeing more than 1,300 persons detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association, and inviting scores of citizens forcibly exiled for political reasons to return. At least one returning exile later became a cabinet minister, and another the editor of the country’s first independent daily newspaper. Authorities also showed a greater tolerance for public demonstrations protesting government policies.

In February 2001, Bahrainis, in overwhelming numbers, approved by referendum a National Charter proposed by Shaikh Hamad that elevated his title from amir (prince) to king and endorsed an elected National Assembly.[8] But exactly a year later the king unilaterally decreed a revised constitution that established an appointed Shura (consultative) Council alongside, and enjoying essentially co-equal powers with, the elected Assembly. The opposition, Shia and Sunni alike, considered this move a betrayal of the National Charter.[9] In 2002, Bahrain held its first elections to the National Assembly in more than a quarter-century, but most of the opposition refused to contest the election and many boycotted the vote.[10]

Many Bahrainis remained unhappy with the king’s peremptory and unilateral revisions to the country’s constitution, and the very limited prerogatives of their elected representatives.[11] There was also a failure to institutionalize many reforms in law. However, during much of the past decade, it at least had become possible in Bahrain to protest publicly, and in association with others, as well as to advocate for additional reforms—a state of affairs that had not existed for the prior 25 years.

Not the least of the reforms implemented by the Bahraini government since 1999 was ending the routine practice of torturing detainees—particularly political detainees—during interrogation. Torture and arbitrary detention had become routine beginning in 1975, when the ruling Al Khalifa family suspended the 1973 constitution and conducted mass arrests of its critics. After the Iranian revolution of 1979 the situation grew increasingly polarized along sectarian lines between the majority Shia population and the Sunni minority, which, as discussed, included the Al Khalifa family, the heads of the various security services, and the courts.

Repression intensified further in 1981, when the government conducted widespread arrests of Shia after it said it had uncovered a plot to replace the Al Khalifa rulers with an Islamic republic modeled on Iran. Another wave of repression began in late 1994, when demonstrations and unrest began erupting regularly in Shia neighborhoods and villages around demands to restore the 1973 constitution and partially-elected parliament, as well as demands for jobs.

In an investigation published in 1997, based on interviews with former detainees as well as defense lawyers, Human Rights Watch found that “[s]ystematic beating as well as other forms of physical and psychological abuse of detainees are pervasive in Bahrain.”[12] Between 1994 and 1998, Human Rights Watch received reports of at least seven deaths in custody due to torture, mistreatment, or medical neglect.[13] These episodes occurred despite the fact that Bahrain’s constitution and penal code categorically prohibited any use of torture. Indeed, government officials at the time asserted that allegations of torture were “simply not true, and propagandist in nature,” and that there were “internal procedures for the investigation of complaints about the police.”[14] Nonetheless, at no point are Bahraini authorities known to have conducted an investigation into alleged torture, or disciplined or punished any official in connection with such allegations.[15]

Several developments beginning in 1998 indicated that Bahrain’s rulers had decided to address directly the problem of torture and mistreatment. That year the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) conducted prison visits for the first time.[16] Also in 1998 the government ratified the Convention against Torture, and agreed to a visit by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which took place in 2001.

In a related (but negative) development, Shaikh Hamad issued Decree 56 in July 2002. The government characterized this decree as providing a “general amnesty” for the purpose of “closing a chapter on the past and helping to create a climate conducive to the enjoyment of public freedoms.”[17] The primary effect of Decree 56/2002 was to confer on present and former government officials immunity from criminal investigation or prosecution for alleged acts of torture or other serious human rights abuses.[18] The king issued the decree prior to the opening of the new National Assembly, with the intent of preempting any attempts by newly elected representatives to delve into such matters. The UN Committee Against Torture subsequently criticized the amnesty decree as well as the inadequate availability of compensation and rehabilitation for victims of torture. The Committee Against Torture also took issue with the absence of data on complaints of torture and ill-treatment, and the absence of data regarding investigations and prosecutions undertaken in response to such complaints.[19]

Notwithstanding the issues raised by the Committee Against Torture, there were few complaints of torture in detention in Bahrain between 2000 and the end of 2007 (although Bahraini human rights defenders did report incidents during this period in which protestors were beaten at demonstrations or at the point of arrest). Since December 2007, however, reports of abusive interrogation and detention practices have increased. For example, in July 2008, Human Rights Watch noted credible allegations that a group of political activists arrested in December 2007 had been convicted of crimes (in the Jidhafs case) on the basis of coerced confessions.[20] Specifically, the activists alleged that security officials had subjected them to torture, including sexual assault. The US State Department’s report on human rights practices in Bahrain in 2008 reported widespread arrests at protests and that those arrested alleged they were subjected to abuses in detention.[21] In addition, Bahraini human rights activists began to report an increase in complaints of serious abuse and torture from certain detainees.

In response to increasing complaints of torture and ill-treatment in 2008, the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), a legally-recognized association, requested permission from the Public Prosecution Office to visit the detention facilities of the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation (CID). The CID is housed at a Ministry of Interior compound in the Adliya district of Manama. Abdulla al-Derazi, who heads the BHRS, told Human Rights Watch that the Public Prosecution Office responded positively in January 2008 to its request, but then withdrew permission when the BHRS insisted that physicians be part of the team to visit Adliya. Derazi said that the BHRS has since made periodic requests to visit detention sites immediately after learning of arrests, but to date permission has not been forthcoming. “They usually don’t respond,” Derazi said.[22]

Bahrain’s Security Forces and Law Enforcement Apparatus

The CID is an agency of the Ministry of Interior, which comprises directorates of Criminal Investigation, Forensic Evidence, Economic Crimes Prevention, and Narcotics Prevention. The office of the inspector-general of the Ministry of Interior includes a Directorate of Complaints and Human Rights.[23] There is also an Office of Public Security, which supervises regular police.

The Ministry of Interior administers jails and other places of detention under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice. The former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch for this report testified that for the most part abuse occurred at CID headquarters in Adliya, where authorities hold persons suspected of serious crimes pending investigations, and in the Short-Term Detention Unit, which Bahrainis commonly refer to as Dry Dock.[24]

Several former detainees told Human Rights Watch that they had been arrested by Special Forces, referring to the Special Security Forces under the command of the National Security Agency (NSA).[25] Shaikh Hamad issued Decree 14 in May 2002, by which the NSA replaced the General Directorate for State Security Investigations, in the Ministry of Interior. The NSA, while not formally part of the Ministry of Interior, has offices in Interior Ministry headquarters. Its director, currently Khalifa bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, has cabinet rank and is a member, along with the minister of interior, of the Supreme Defense Council, headed by the prime minister, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the NSA has arrested numerous political activists and engaged in attacks on demonstrators.[26] In late 2008 the king amended Decree 14/2002 to give NSA forces equivalent status to public security forces and to make military courts the only venue for prosecuting NSA personnel.[27] This made it impossible, for instance, for someone to file a civil or criminal complaint against the NSA or any of its forces.

Special Security Forces take persons they have arrested to one of several possible sites for pre-investigation detention, including the CID detention site in Adliya and the Manama Police Fort, which is on the grounds of the Ministry of Interior headquarters. Several former detainees told Human Rights Watch that Special Security Forces officers subjected them to torture and abuse at an NSA facility.[28] The great majority of Special Security Forces are reportedly recruited from other Arab countries and Pakistan;[29] the BCHR claims that there are no Bahraini Shia in the ranks of the Special Security Forces, and that the only Bahraini Shia working for the NSA are a small number of informants and persons holding low-level positions.[30]

We note that Bahrain’s minister of interior, Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, during a visit to France in late November 2007 signed a cooperation agreement under which French police officers working with the Compagnie Republicaine de Securite (CRS) have provided training for the Special Security Forces in controlling street demonstrations.[31]  Moreover, the United Kingdom, whose nationals had once been deeply implicated in abuses by Bahraini security forces, today provides three full-time advisors from Bramshill, the UK police staff college, in the areas of criminal investigation, forensic science, and community policing.[32] Bahrain’s security relationship with the United States mainly involves the US’s provision of training and equipment for the Bahrain Defense Forces, which have not been involved in suppressing demonstrations or other internal security matters. Bahrain is headquarters for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and in 2003 the US designated Bahrain as a major non-NATO ally.


Cases Giving Rise to Torture Complaints

The former detainees whom Human Rights Watch interviewed were among those detained in the Jidhafs, Karzakan, and Hujaira cases, the circumstances of which are detailed below. As mentioned in the previous chapter, most of these individuals had been released as a result of a pardon issued by the king in April 2009. As the procedural history of the Karzakan case makes clear, the pardon did not constitute an amnesty or preclude the prosecution of criminal cases, but rather suspended certain proceedings and allowed for the release from custody of certain individuals at least temporarily.[33] According to one of the defense attorneys in the Hujaira case, the authorities can reinstate the suspended proceedings at any time.[34] In fact, the trial of certain defendants in the Karzakan case recommenced after being suspended on the basis of the pardon and concluded on October 13, 2009, with the dismissal of all charges against the defendants, as discussed in greater detail below.[35]

Jidhafs case

In mid-December 2007 protestors held a series of demonstrations in and around Manama, including in the largely Shia village of Jidhafs, in response to alleged abuses by security forces. On December 17 Ali Jassim Makki, a protestor, died following one confrontation between demonstrators and security forces, and clashes involving protestors and security forces grew more intense.[36] During clashes on December 21, protestors apparently set fire to an empty police vehicle and allegedly stole a weapon from the vehicle.[37]

In a statement on December 26, the Ministry of Interior described the incidents as “a cycle of unlicensed and unauthorized rallies” that “tended to quickly degenerate into violence and vandalism.” The statement added that there were “very few arrests,” and that those arrested would face charges of arson and vandalism.[38] According to the opposition Haq Movement, authorities detained 48 persons between December 17 and December 27.[39] In July 2008, the First Supreme Criminal Court sentenced 11 of the 15 individuals who ultimately had been charged in the Jidhafs case to jail terms for offenses that included illegal assembly, arson, attacking security forces, and illegal possession of weapons.[40] Those who had been imprisoned on the basis of these convictions were freed pursuant to the king’s pardon.

Karzakan case

There were two events near the village of Karzakan that for judicial purposes were initially treated as related. The first, on March 6, 2008, involved a fire allegedly set on the farm of Shaikh Abd al-Aziz Attiyatallah Al Khalifa, a ruling family member and the head of the NSA from its establishment in 2002 until September 2005. The other incident, on April 9, involved clashes between demonstrators and security forces in which an unmarked police vehicle was set afire. A plainclothes Pakistani officer with the NSA, Majid Asghar Ali, died, although apparently not as a result of being trapped in the burning vehicle, as authorities claimed. The Public Prosecution Office charged 15 individuals in connection with the alleged arson on the farm, and 19 in connection with the torching of the police vehicle and the death of the Pakistani officer. The charges included arson and participation in illegal gatherings.[41]

Although the First Supreme Criminal Court initially consolidated the two cases, the matters were ultimately severed. The case involving the alleged arson attack on the farm was suspended on April 12, 2009 pursuant to the king’s pardon and has not recommenced. Also on April 12, 2009, the court suspended the case concerning the death of the NSA officer.[42] However, that matter resumed in May 2009 and, as mentioned, concluded in October 2009 with the acquittal of all defendants on all charges.[43]

One of the individuals Human Rights Watch interviewed, a resident of a village near Karzakan, had been detained in early February 2008 in connection with an alleged earlier arson attack against property belonging to another member of the ruling family. He was released following an initial court hearing that was not part of the Karzakan case.

Al-Hujaira case

During the last two weeks of December 2008, security forces arrested approximately 35 individuals, including prominent opposition leaders Hassan Mushaima and Shaikh Muhammad Habib al-Moqdad.[44] The Public Prosecution Office accused these individuals of establishing an illegal group for the purpose of undermining the constitution of Bahrain, hindering public authorities from performing their duties, and violating the rights of citizens, including through terrorism. The defendants were also charged with unauthorized weapons and explosives training.[45] Authorities asserted that many of the defendants had received this training in al-Hujaira, Damascus.[46]

On December 28, 2008, state-controlled television broadcast a compilation of excerpts from taped conversations in which 11 of the defendants appeared to admit to involvement in a range of allegedly terrorism-related activities and to carrying out violent acts at an opposition rally earlier in December.[47] The broadcast assembled brief elements of the statements, shifting from one defendant to another and back again, without at any point naming the defendants, although their faces were shown. The broadcast also included scenes of rioting and voice-over commentary about the threat of terrorism.[48] Two daily newspapers, the pro-government Al-Ayyam and the independent Al-Waqt, printed what appear to be complete transcripts of the program the next day, December 29, and named those defendants who allegedly confessed.[49] In their broadcast statements, the defendants talked about their putative recruitment, preparation, and training, and said that attacks were planned to coincide with important national holidays. They also implicated Hassan Mushaima as being responsible for inciting such activities and violence.[50]

A Bahraini court discontinued the prosecution of this case indefinitely (and before verdict) on April 28, 2009, based upon the king’s pardon.[51]

[3]The UN State of World Population 2009 put the total population at 800,000: see http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2009/en/pdf/EN_SOWP09.pdf (accessed December 10, 2009), p. 86. In February 2008 the government’s Central Informatics Organization revised sharply upwards (and retroactively) the figure for total population to more than one million, including 512,000 expatriates—an increase of some 42 percent over its prior total population figure of 740,000. The Economist Intelligence Unit interpreted the government’s upward revision to reflect the fact that the authorities had previously seriously underestimated the number of foreign workers (Bahrain: Country Profile 2009, p. 14). In response to complaints from al-Wifaq, the largest opposition bloc in the National Assembly, which represents mainly Shia constituents, the government conducted an investigation that reportedly cleared officials of negligence or manipulation of the data. Al-Wifaq dismissed the report as a whitewash. See “Bahrain Shia MPs walk out over population row,” Reuters, May 14, 2008. See also Hassan M. Fattah, “Report Cites Bid by Sunnis in Bahrain to Rig Elections,” New York Times, October 2, 2006, p. A3. On October 30, 2009, after authorities reportedly refused to accept a petition signed by 190 opposition figures, thousands of demonstrators “formed a 3-kilometer human chain in the capital Manama to protest what the opposition describes as an effort to change the demography of largely Shiite Bahrain and influence the outcome of elections.” See “Thousands demonstrate against naturalization law in Bahrain,” DPA, October 31, 2009, reproduced at http://sify.com/news/thousands-demonstrate-against-naturalisation-law-in-bahrain-news-international-jk4w4cgahhf.html (accessed January 12, 2010).

[4]International Crisis Group, “Bahrain’s Sectarian Challenge,” May 2005, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=5898 (accessed January 12, 2010).

[5]On the “naturalization” controversy, see, for example, Andrew Hammond, “Bahraini Shi’ites complain over settling Sunnis,” Reuters, June 21, 2009.

[6]Reuters, January 17, 1996, cited in Human Rights Watch, Routine Abuse, Routine Denial: Civil Rights and the Political Crisis in Bahrain (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1997), http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/1997/bahrain/.

[7]Until 2001, Bahrain’s ruler was known as the amir (prince). In that year Shaikh Hamad decreed that Bahrain would be a kingdom rather than an emirate, and took the title of king.

[8]Human Rights Watch, Bahrain’s National Charter Referendum, February 2001, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2001/02/12/bahrains-national-charter-referendum.

[9]On the political background, see Edward Burke, “Bahrain: Reaching a Threshold,” FRIDE Working Paper, Madrid, June 2008; Katja Niethammer, “Voices in Parliament, Debates in Majalis, and Manners on Streets: Avenues of Political Participation in Bahrain,” European University Institute Working Paper RSCAS No. 2006/27, Florence, 2006; Steven Wright, “Fixing the Kingdom: Political Evolution and Socio-Economic Challenges in Bahrain,” Georgetown University Center for International and Regional Studies, 2008; and International Crisis Group, “Bahrain’s Sectarian Challenge.”



[12]Human Rights Watch, Routine Abuse, Routine Denial, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/1997/bahrain/, p. 52.

[13]Human Rights Watch, World Report 1999 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1998), Bahrain chapter, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/worldreport99/mideast/Bahrain.html.

[14]Letter of Bahrain’s then-ambassador to the United States to Human Rights Watch,reproduced in Human Rights Watch, Routine Abuse, Routine Denial.

[15]A Bahraini defense lawyer told Human Rights Watch in December 1996 that disciplinary measures had likely been taken against officials in cases where torture led to death in detention, but that there were no known instances of this happening. See Human Rights Watch, Routine Abuse, Routine Denial, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/1997/bahrain, p. 57.

[16]The ICRC reported in June 1999 that its representatives had visited 1,327 persons detained for security reasons in 13 places of detention; in keeping with ICRC protocol, its findings were conveyed to the government but were not made public. See Human Rights Watch, World Report 2000 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999), Bahrain chapter, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/wr2k/Mena-02.htm.

[17]United Nations Committee against Torture, “Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 19 of the Convention, Comments by the Government of Bahrain to the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture (CAT/C/CR/34/BHR),” CAT/C/BHR/CO/1/Add.1, November 21, 2006, http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G07/403/80/PDF/G0740380.pdf?OpenElement (accessed December 29, 2009).

[18]In December 2002 Human Rights Watch wrote to Shaikh Hamad to urge that he clarify that Decree 56/2002 did not apply to allegations of serious crimes such as torture, after the prosecutor-general refused to receive a formal complaint from eight Bahrainis alleging that Adil Jassim Flaifil, a former colonel in the State Security and Intelligence Service, had subjected them to torture. The prosecutor-general reportedly told the lawyers attempting to file the complaint that they were wasting their time. See “Bahrain: Investigate Torture Claims against Ex-Officer,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 16, 2002, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2002/12/16/bahrain-investigate-torture-claims-against-ex-officer. The government of Bahrain did not respond to the December 2002 letter. Adil Flaifil currently heads one of Bahrain’s political “societies,” the Islamic Vanguard Society, and in July 2009 announced his intention to run in the 2010 National Assembly elections.

[19]United Nations Committee against Torture, “Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 19 of the Convention, Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Bahrain,” CAT/C/CR/34/BHR, June 21, 2005, http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CAT.C.CR.34.BHR.En?Opendocument (accessed December 29, 2009).

[20]See “Bahrain: Convictions Tainted by Claims of Abuse,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 15, 2008, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/07/15/bahrain-convictions-tainted-claims-abuse, and “Bahrain: New Allegations of Detainee Abuse,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 15, 2008, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/02/15/bahrain-new-allegations-detainee-abuse. On December 26, 2007, Human Rights Watch wrote to Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the minister of interior, expressing concern about the treatment of persons detained in connection with confrontations with security forces over the previous 10 days. Shaikh Rashid responded in a letter dated January 28, 2008, attaching a memorandum from the Ministry of Interior’s legal department, which detailed what it characterized as acts of arson and vandalism, as well as the theft of a weapon and ammunition from a police vehicle, and disputed allegations that security forces used excessive force in conducting arrests. A follow-up inquiry from Human Rights Watch on March 31, 2008 did not receive a response. Correspondence on file with Human Rights Watch.

[21]US State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2008: Bahrain,” February 25, 2009, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/nea/119113.htm, and “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007: Bahrain,” March 11, 2008, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100593.htm (both accessed December 29, 2009).

[22]Human Rights Watch interview with Abdulla al-Derazi, Manama, June 11, 2009. In August 2009, according to reports in the Bahraini media, the minister of interior said that the BHRS could visit detention sites annually. Officials have also said that Bahrain plans to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, which would, in theory, allow independent inspections of prisons and detention sites. See Sandeep Singh Grewal, “BHRS granted annual prison visitation rights,” Bahrain Tribune, August 20, 2009.

[23]The Ministry of Interior’s three other general directorates are the Coast Guard, Civil Defense, and Traffic. For a list of directorates and associated departments, see http://www.interior.gov.bh/eng/other_directorates.asp (accessed January 12, 2010). Prior to 2002 the Public Prosecution Office was a branch of the Ministry of Interior; in that year it was moved to the Ministry of Justice.

[24]A number of those interviewed were first held at the CID detention site and then moved to Dry Dock after meeting with (and providing confessions to) the Public Prosecution Office. In several cases, detainees said they were immediately taken to Dry Dock after their arrest. Persons suspected of lesser offences are typically held in district police stations pending investigation. See United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Addendum, Visit to Bahrain, March 5, 2002 (E/CN.4/2002/77/Add.2), http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G02/112/88/PDF/G0211288.pdf?OpenElement (accessed December 29, 2009), p. 27.

[25]Many Bahrainis refer to the NSA in English as the National Security Apparatus. This NSA is not to be confused with the Naval Support Activity operation associated with the US Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain.

[26]Bahrain Center for Human Rights, “Dangerous Statistics and Facts about the National Security Apparatus,” March 8, 2009, http://www.bahrainrights.org/eng/node/2784 (accessed October 21, 2009).

[27]Bahrain Center for Human Rights, “Granting the National Security Apparatus the power of General Attorney and immunity from prosecution before Civil Courts,” http://www.bahrainrights.org/eng/node/2698 (accessed January 26, 2009).

[28]As noted above, there is significant co-mingling in the operations of the NSA and CID; it is apparently not unusual for NSA personnel to be in CID facilities or vice versa.

[29]Pakistani and other non-Bahraini security officers work for the Bahraini security services; they are not seconded by their governments.

[30]Bahrain Center for Human Rights, “Dangerous Statistics and Facts about the National Security Apparatus,” http://www.bahrainrights.org/eng/node/2784. Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR, told Human Rights Watch that the BCHR determined the composition of NSA forces by reviewing the names of all active-duty members (email communication, October 21, 2009). In September 2009 a Bahraini court sentenced Hassan Salman, a 26-year-old computer expert with the General Authority for Social Insurance, to three years in prison for publishing the names of all NSA officers on a website. Salman reportedly confessed that he had done so out of anger at the role of the NSA in arresting opposition leaders Hassan Mushaima and Shaikh Moqdad (see below). On the Hassan Salman case, see Bahrain Human Rights Monitor, “Public Statement: the Trial of Hassan Salman and its Implications,” October 2009.

[31]The CRS units, affiliated with the Direction Centrale des Compagnies de Securite (DCRS), are the operational reserve units of the French National Police, the branch of the French police principally charged with maintaining public order. The text of the agreement (http://www.senat.fr/dossierleg/pjl08-312.html), which was sent to the French Senate for ratification in April 2009, covers a wide range of security concerns, including counterterrorism and organized crime.  French foreign ministry officials, in a meeting on November 24, 2009, told Human Rights Watch that to date training has mainly involved French experts conducting crowd control training in Bahrain, with follow up provided by one or more liaison officers posted at the French embassy in Manama.

[32]See the website of the National Policing Improvement Agency, http://www.npia.police.uk/en/6589.htm (accessed December 30, 2009). On the leading role of UK nationals in Bahrain’s State Security Directorate over three decades, until 1999, see Human Rights Watch, Routine Abuse, Routine Denial, p. 16.

[33]Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Courts’ Administration, Case No. 7/2009/1057, Order, April 28, 2009 (the court “discontinued” the Hujaira case, which concerned alleged terrorist activities).

[34]Human Rights Watch interview with defense counsel Mohamed Ahmed Abdulla, Manama, June 10, 2009.

[35]Mazen Mahdi, “Bahrain Court Acquits 19 of Policeman’s Murder,” Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar), October 13, 2009.

[36]Government officials at the time said that Jassim had died of natural causes; protestors said he died after inhaling tear gas used by security forces. According to BCHR, the clashes at the time involved NSA forces. See Bahrain Center for Human Rights, “Dangerous Statistics and Facts about the National Security Apparatus,” http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/2784.

[37]Bahrain: Investigate Alleged Torture of Activists,” Human Rights Watch news release, January 20, 2008, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/01/20/bahrain-investigate-alleged-torture-activists.

[38]Email communication to Human Rights Watch from Foreign Media Affairs, an office in the Ministry of Information, December 26, 2007.

[39]Haq Movement of Liberties and Democracy – Bahrain press release, by email to Human Rights Watch, December 27, 2007.

[40]Human Rights Watch interview with defense counsel Hafiz Ali Muhammad, Manama, June 11, 2009. Muhammad said that no lawyers were present for the first interrogation of the Jidhafs case defendants by the Public Prosecution Office. He said he met his clients only three weeks after filing a request.

[41]Human Rights Watch interview with defense counsel Muhammad al-Tajer, Manama, June 11, 2009; and Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Courts’ Administration, Case No. 7/2008/03252, Verdict, October 13, 2009. The court concluded in its verdict, based on a forensic report, that the officer had died as a result of an injury to his head, which could have resulted from falling from his car. The court found, thus, that “there [wa]s no connection between the deeds attributed to the defendants and his death…”

[42]Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad al-Tajer, June 11, 2009.

[43]Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Courts’ Administration, Case No. 7/2008/03252, Verdict, October 13, 2009.

[44]Human Rights Watch interview with defense counsel Mohamed Ahmed Abdulla, June 10, 2009, and Referral Order, Case No. 1403/2008, Criminal Public Prosecution Office, February 10, 2009. Of the 35 individuals who ultimately were charged, court papers indicate that a number had not been detained at the commencement of the trial.

[45]Referral Order, Case No. 1403/2008, Criminal Public Prosecution Office, February 10, 2009.

[46]Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Ahmed Abdulla, June 10, 2009.

[47]As discussed in Chapter IV, the defendants told Human Rights Watch they believed that they were having conversations with a “shaikh” and were unaware that their conversations were being videotaped for later broadcast as confessions. See the Human Rights Watch interviews below with Yassin Ali Ahmad Mushaima and Muhammad al-Hamadi.

[48]See, for instance, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ede6kVu0JMhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qecmeixIo7M&feature=related, and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDA4_kOz8CA&feature=related (all accessed January 12, 2010). Minister of Culture and Information Mai Al Khalifa, after she was questioned by a member of parliament about the broadcast, held the Public Prosecution Office responsible. “It is not the job of the Ministry of Culture and Information, while carrying out a judicial order, to inspect the nature of the broadcast setting, or to be sure of the presence of lawyers,” she said. “It is not for the Ministry of Information to interfere in such matters.” Bahrain Human Rights Monitor, “Minister of information: Broadcasting ‘Hujaira’ Confessions is Legal,” March 2009, p. 10.

[49]The printed transcript of the televised “confessions” program is available at http://alwaqt.com/art.php?aid=144694 and http://www.alayam.com/ArticleDetail.asp?CategoryId=2&ArticleId=373095.


[51]Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Courts’ Administration, Case No. 7/2009/1057, April 28, 2009.