British court confirms end of Bahraini prince’s immunity

Bahrain – Torture – Prince Nasser

After a two year court battle, in October 2014 the UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions accepted that Bahraini Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa is not immune from prosecution. Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Cranston confirmed this decision at a divisional court hearing in London. This decision opens the door to an investigation by the Metropolitan Police War Crimes Team SO15 into allegations that the prince was involved in the torture of political prisoners, and a possible prosecution.


A Bahraini torture survivor, known only as FF brought the case to challenge the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) decision of August 2012 that the prince has state immunity from prosecution. The case was due to be contested in court in October 2012 when the DPP decided to back down, and withdraw their decision that the prince was immune. ECCHR, which initially raised the torture allegations with David Cameron (then Prime Minister) and then Foreign Minister William Hague around the time of the 2012 Olympics was an interested party in the proceedings.


In February 2011, a pro-democracy movement in Bahrain rallied for more participation in the political process in Manama and other cities of Bahrain. The protests were brutally stopped by Bahraini security forces, but are nevertheless still on-going. On 15 March 2011, the King of Bahrain declared a state of emergency and a first wave of repressive actions by government’s forces took place.

At this time, two oppositional leaders of Bahrain, when detained in the Manama Fort prison clinic Al-Qala’a (seat of the Ministry of Interior), alleged being flogged, beaten and kicked by the son of the King, Nasser bin Hamad. Both opposition leaders were sentenced to longtime imprisonment. Amnesty International and other groups recognize them as prisoners of conscience. A national investigation team set up of international experts, the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), published its report in November 2011, detailing torture allegations against government security personnel and recommending investigations

To date, an investigation of the aforementioned allegations of the two prisoners of conscience against Nasser bin Hamad have not been initiated or at least not been publically reported about. Meanwhile, Nasser bin Hamad travels frequently to the UK and a number of other European states, without facing investigations by local prosecution services.


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A dossier is collection of documents and information, generally relating to a specific person or event, that can submitted to a court or other authority.

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The law is clear: torture is prohibited under any circumstances. Whoever commits, orders or approves acts of torture should be prosecuted. This is set out in the UN Convention against Torture which has been ratified by 146 states.

Failure to punish and acknowledge torture adds to the trauma of survivors and their families; individual as well as collective traumas persist. The cycle of torture, impunity and further injustice cannot be broken without addressing these crimes, including through the law. This is why – where torture is used as part of a policy – it is important to hold not only low-ranking perpetrators of torture accountable but also their superiors as well as political and military decision makers – including those from politically and economically powerful states.  

In the fight against torture, ECCHR works with survivors and partner organizations to pursue a variety of legal avenues. In some cases, it might be appropriate to bring a case to the International Criminal Court, as with the torture and mistreatment of detainees by British forces in Iraq. ECCHR also takes cases based on the principle of universal jurisdiction in third states like Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Sweden, filing complaints against those responsible for the US torture program in the so-called "war on terror," against the Bahraini Attorney General, and against senior officials within the Syrian intelligence services.


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