By Husain Abdulla, November 25, 2020
From Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain
23-year-old Jasim Mohamed AlEskafi was working at Mondelez International’s Kraft Factory, in addition to freelance farming and sales work, when he was arbitrarily arrested by the Bahraini authorities on 23 January 2018. During his detention, he was subjected to several human rights violations. Since April 2019, Jasim has been held in Jau Prison.
At around 1:30 a.m. on 23 January 2018, masked security forces, armed officers in civilian clothing, a large number of riot forces, and Commando forces surrounded and raided Jasim’s house without presenting any arrest warrant. They then stormed his bedroom while he and all his family members were sleeping, and arrested him after threatening and pointing weapons at him. The masked men searched the room where Jasim’s younger brother was also sleeping, confiscated and searched his phone before returning it to him, then pulled Jasim outside without allowing him to wear shoes or even a jacket to protect him from the cold weather at that time of the year. The forces also dug in the garden of the house, and confiscated the personal phones of the family members, as well as Jasim’s father’s car. The raid lasted until 6 a.m., and no one was allowed to leave the house. He was then transferred to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) before being transferred to the Investigations Department of Jau Prison in Building 15, where he was interrogated.
During the interrogation, Jasim was tortured by law enforcement officers while blindfolded and handcuffed. He was beaten, he was forced to take his clothes off in the open air in exceedingly cold weather, and cold water was poured on him in order to force him to confess to information about other individuals in the opposition and to confess to the charges against him. Despite all the torture, officers failed at first to coerce Jasim into giving a false confession. His lawyer was not able to attend the interrogations, as Jasim was not allowed to meet anyone.
On 28 January 2018, six days after his arrest, Jasim was able to make a brief call to his family to tell them that he was fine. However, the call was short, and Jasim was forced to tell his family that he was in the Criminal Investigations in Adliya, when in fact, he was in the Investigations Department of Jau Prison in Building 15, where he stayed for almost a month.
After leaving Building 15 in Jau Prison, the forces transferred Jasim to his house, took him to the garden, and photographed him while he was there. Then, he was taken to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) for 20 minutes, where he was threatened with being returned to the Investigation Building to be tortured in case he denied the statements written in the record of evidence, which he had forcibly signed without knowing its content, despite refraining from confessing when he was in the Investigations Department of Jau Prison in Building 15 . After signing that record at the PPO, he was taken to Dry Dock Detention Center. No official news was given about Jasim for the first 40 days of his detention; his family was therefore unable to receive any official update about him until 4 March 2018.
Jasim was not brought promptly before a judge. He was also denied access to his attorney, and he did not have adequate time and facilities to prepare for the trial. No defense witnesses were presented during the trial. The lawyer explained that Jasim denied the confessions in the record and that they were extracted from him under torture and threats, but the confessions were used against Jasim in court. Consequently, Jasim was convicted of: 1) Joining a terrorist group that the authorities called the Hezbollah Cell, 2) Receiving, transferring, and handing over funds to support and finance the activities of this terrorist group, 3) Concealment, on behalf of a terrorist group, of weapons, ammunition and explosives prepared for use in its activities, 4) Training on the use of weapons and explosives in Hezbollah camps in Iraq with the intention of committing terrorist acts, 5) Possessing, acquiring, and manufacturing of explosive devices, detonators, and materials used in the manufacture of explosive devices without a license from the Minister of Interior, and 6) Possessing and acquiring firearms and ammunition without a license from the Minister of Interior for use in activities that disrupt public order and security.
On 16 April 2019, Jasim was sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 dinars, and his nationality was also revoked. He attended that session and denied the charges against him. However, the court did not take his claim into consideration. After this session, Jasim was transferred to Jau Prison, where he remains.
Jasim went to both the Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation to appeal his sentence. While the Court of Appeal reinstated his citizenship on 30 June 2019, both Courts upheld the rest of the judgment.
Jasim is not receiving necessary medical treatment for allergies and scabies, which he contracted while in prison. Jasim also suffers from excessive sensitivity of the skin and appropriate treatment has not been provided, nor has he been presented to any doctor to monitor his condition. When he asked to visit the prison clinic, he was isolated, shackled, and deprived of his right to contact his family. He is also prohibited from having warm water in the winter, and cold water in the summer for use and drinking. The prison’s administration also prevented him from having access to books.
On 14 October 2020, a large number of prisoners, including Jasim, began a contact strike in Jau Prison, due to the imposition of several forms of restrictions on them, including: the right to five, family-only contact numbers to call, a four-fold increase in the cost of calling, while setting the call rate at 70 fils per minute (which is a very high value), as well as the poor connection during calls and the reduction of the call time.
Due to all these violations, Jasim’s family filed four complaints to the Ombudsman and to the emergency police line 999. The Ombudsman has not yet followed up regarding the case of suspension of communications and some other violations.
Jasim’s arrest, confiscation of his and his family’s belongings, enforced disappearance, torture, denial of social and cultural rights, denial of medical treatment, unfair trial, and detention within inhumane and unhealthy conditions violate both the Bahraini Constitution as well as international obligations to which Bahrain is party, namely, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Since an arrest warrant was not presented, and given Jasim’s conviction depended on false confessions which he was obliged to sign without knowing their content, we can conclude that Jasim is arbitrarily detained by Bahraini authorities.
Accordingly, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls upon Bahrain to uphold its human rights obligations by investigating all torture allegations to ensure accountability and by giving Jasim the opportunity to defend himself through a fair retrial. ADHRB also urges Bahrain to provide Jasim with safe and sanitary prison conditions, appropriate medical treatment, adequate water, and fair calling conditions.