Torture allegations against Bahraini Attorney General

Ireland rejects criminal complaint, Switzerland conducts investigations

Bahrain – Torture – Attorney General

Electric shocks, beatings on the soles of the feet, stress positions during incommunicado detention: those who allow this type of torture can and must be held criminally liable – even abroad. In September 2016, Bahrain-born British citizen Jaafar al-Hasabi submitted a criminal complaint to the District Court in Dublin, Ireland, against Bahraini Attorney General Ali Bin Fadhul al-Buainain concerning the Attorney General’s role in the torture.

The court refused to allow the private prosecution, but investigations are ongoing after a separate complaint was lodged with the Irish police. The case was brought in Dublin was while al-Buainain was due to attend the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) annual conference held in Dublin from 11-16 September 2016.

Case

Al-Hasabi, who now lives in London, was detained and tortured in Bahrain in 2010. Despite the United Nations’ expressed concerns as to his incommunicado detention and risk of torture, the Bahraini Attorney General authorized and prolonged his detention.The Swiss prosecutor decided not to summon the Attorney General for questioning while he was in the country, but did launch an investigation after confirming there was sufficient evidence to open proceedings.

In June 2016, al-Hasabi was heard as a witness. The NGOs call on the Irish and Swiss authorities not to hide behind diplomatic, political or economic justifications and on the Bern prosecutor to open an investigation in this case, in compliance with their obligations under the UN Convention against Torture.

Context

ECCHR is supporting al-Hasabi, coordinating the legal steps and analyzing the responsibility of senior officials for severe human rights violations in Bahrain. This work is done in cooperation with London based organizations, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and REDRESS as well as GLAN (Global Legal Action Network) in Ireland and TRIAL International in Geneva.

In September 2015, al-Hasabi submitted a criminal complaint to the prosecuting authorities in Berne (Switzerland). During that time al-Buainain was attending the annual IAP conference in Switzerland, where he was elected vice president of the organization.

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Glossary (2)

Definition

Command responsibility

In international criminal law, the principle of command responsibility allows for commanders to be held criminally liable for crimes committed by their subordinates. This will apply if the commander was in a position to prevent crimes committed by forces under their effective control and knew or should have known that the crime would be committed.

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Insight

Torture

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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