Bahrain upholds death sentences despite torture claims

Pro-democracy activists Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa face imminent execution.

al-monitor Bahraini lawyer S. Mohsin Al-Alawi (R) holds the defense case file for Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Shiite opposition movement Al-Wefaq, as he leaves the court after the sentence hearing on June 16, 2015, in Manama. Photo by MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP via Getty Images.

Jul 13, 2020

Bahrain’s top court has upheld the death sentence for two activists convicted of killing a police officer despite an outcry from human rights organizations who say false confessions were obtained through torture. 

Mohammed Ramadhan, a security guard at Bahrain's international airport, and Husain Moosa, a hotel worker, were arrested in 2014 in connection to a bombing that killed a police officer in a village near the kingdom’s capital, Manama. The two men were each sentenced to death for terrorism. 

Rights groups say they were beaten, electrocuted and subjected to other kinds of torture after refusing to confess and that their trials did not comply with international fairness standards. Moosa, who said he was abused until he admitted guilt and incriminated Ramadhan, later recanted his confession. 

Their sentences were held up in 2018 after a special investigation unit in the public prosecutor’s office put forward medical reports that showed the two men had been tortured. But following a review of their cases, an appeals court reinstated thee sentences in January 2020. Bahrain’s top court upheld the convictions on Monday, leaving Moosa and Ramadhan with no other legal remedies. 

“Bahrain’s judiciary has decided to blatantly ignore court evidence of torture,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director. “Instead of condemning to death the victims of this irreparably flawed trial, they must hold to account those responsible for their torture.”

In a statement to Reuters, the public prosecutor’s office said the trial was fair and that the confessions were extracted “without any physical or verbal coercion.” 

Ramadhan and Moosa, both Shiite Muslims, were involved in the quashed protests against the country's Sunni-dominated government in 2011. Since then, authorities in the tiny Gulf kingdom have relied on broad definitions of terrorism to round up pro-democracy activists, journalists and government critics. 

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, called the verdict a “dark stain in the struggle for human rights in Bahrain.” 

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