Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture – Bahrain Center for Human Rights – Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
On September 29, Naji Fateel, a Bahraini blogger and human rights activist who has been tortured by the local security forces, will receive court verdict which could be a long term prison sentence. This is a cause for serious concern to the Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, particularly considering the country’s disastrous record on human rights.
Naji Fateel was arrested on May 2nd, 2013 and was tortured several times during his interrogation in the Criminal Investigation Directorate. He suffered electric shocks on his feet, back and genitals. He was also subjected to simulated drowning, beating, sexual harassment and sleep deprivation. He was driven twice to the Interior Ministry hospital because of his wounds.
Instead of requesting an investigation into these abuses, the prosecutor threatened to send him back to his torturers, and forced him to sign a confession that he was not allowed to read.
Maryam Al-Khawaja, Acting President for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, stated « the trial of Naji Fateel is symptomatic of the crackdown against political activists and human rights defenders in Bahrain. It reinforces the feeling of impunity felt by the Bahraini security forces. »
Naji Fateel, a member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, is being prosecuted with 49 other defendants on charges that he was seeking to overthrow the government. This is considered a judicial harassment for their alleged involvement with the 14 February youth coalition, which is one of the stakeholders of the popular pro-democracy movement that has been active in Bahrain for more than two years. On 22 May 2013, Naji Fateel was sentenced to 6 months in jail on charges that he participated in an illegal gathering. This is not the first time that Fateel was subjected to government harassment. In December 2007 he was arrested, tortured, and held in detention until his release in April 2009.
According to Mohamed Al-Maskati, the President for the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, “Naji Fateel is only one of the numerous cases of torture, arbitrary detention and unfair trial that have been denounced in vain by Bahraini Human Rights NGOs.” Despite this dramatic situation, on the 1st of September, 2013, the Arab League agreed that Bahrain would host the headquarters of the Arab Court for Human Rights.
“The choice of the Arab League to establish its Human Rights Court in a country known for its torture practices is somewhat cynical, but is not surprising,” notes Hélène Legeay, Middle East and North Africa programs manager for ACAT. “Beyond the Arab League, the whole international community knowingly covers human rights violations committed by the Bahraini authorities. The kingdom is rich, strategically located near Iran and hosts a U.S. military base. These are as many good reasons for Western states to close their eyes. ”