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BAHRAIN: ARBITRARY DETENTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER AL-SINGACE

The International League Against Arbitrary Detention urges the Government of Bahrain to take all the necessary actions to implement the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Opinion No.  2/2023 concerning M. Abduljalil Abdulla Yusuf Ahmed Al-Singace starting for the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release M. Al-Singace and to accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations in accordance with international law.


Read the full WGAD Opinion concerning Abduljalil Abdulla Yusuf Ahmed Al-Singace (Bahrain) : Opinion No.  2/2023


HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER SUBJECTED TO ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE AND INCOMMUNICADO DETENTION


M. Abduljalil Abdulla Yusuf Ahmed Al-Singace, born in 1962, is a prominent Bahraini human rights defender known for his advocacy work and blog Al-Faseelah, where he publishes articles written by him and others on the human rights situation in Bahrain. Already in 2009, the blog was blocked and Mr. Al-Singace was arrested and held in solitary confinement and released after international pressure. As a human rights defender, M. Al-Singace is know to have been among the first to document cases of prisoners of conscience and to send communications and shadow reports to United Nations human rights mechanisms on situations in Bahrain.


On 17 March 2011, Mr. Al-Singace was arrested at gunpoint and was neither presented with a warrant, informed of the reason for his arrest nor promptly presented before a judicial authority, in violation of article 9 (1) and 9(3) of the Covenant.


Moreover, the Working Group found that he was subjected to enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, in contravention of articles 9 and 14 of the Covenant, a practice prohibited by international law which constitute a particularly aggravated form of arbitrary detention. Indeed, the rights of any detainee to communicate with the outside world, and be visited by family, are fundamental safeguards against any attempts by the authorities to violate his or her human rights, including by torture or any other ill-treatment and enforced disappearance.


Therefore, the Working Group found that the Government failed to establish a legal basis for Mr. Al-Singace’s detention, thus rendering his detention arbitrary under category I.


ARRESTED AND DETAINED FOR EXERCISING HIS RIGHTS OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND ASSEMBLY


Mr. Al-Singace had been active in the 2011 pro-democracy demonstrations which erupted a month before his arrest. He had been tried and convicted alongside 12 other prominent activists, who had all been arrested in connection with their role in the demonstrations.


The Working Group considered that by participating in a peaceful pro-democracy protest, Mr. Al-Singace was exercising his right to freedom of opinion and expression, which protects the holding and expression of opinions, including those which are critical of, or not in line with, government policy. He was also exercising his right to peaceful assembly and association with other like-minded individuals involved in the protests. The Working Group found that Mr. Al-Singace was detained for the peaceful exercise of his rights under articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration and articles 19, 21 and 22 of the Covenant. The Working Group thus found that the detention of Mr. Al-Singace was arbitrary under category II.


SUBJECTED TO TORTURE AND SENTENCED TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT BY A MILITARY TRIBUNAL WITHOUT EFFECTIVE ACCESS TO A LAWYER


The Working Group emphasized that in regards to the arbitrary character of the arrest and detention of Mr. Al-Singace, no trial should have taken place. However, Mr. Al-Singace was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment on 22 June 2011 on the charge of attempting to overthrow the Government. That sentence was upheld on 7 January 2013.


The Working Group noted that Mr. Al-Singace did not have access to a lawyer from the outset of his detention, as well as at other key stages, including during his interrogation, in violation of article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 14 (1) and (3) (b) and (d) of the Covenant. Moreover, Mr. Al-Singace, a civilian, was tried by the military National Safety Court. The Working Group recalled that military tribunals are competent to try only military personnel for military offences and must not try civilians under any circumstances, whatever the charges. As the Working Group has consistently held in its jurisprudence, a tribunal composed of military personnel cannot be considered a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, as required under international human rights law. Last but not least, the Working Group considered that the source has presented a credible prima facie case that Mr. Al-Singace suffered torture and ill-treatment contrary to article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the Covenant by being forced to sleep on the ground, denied hygiene products, not allowed his crutches in his cell and subjected to sleep deprivation.

The Working Group thus fount that the violations of Mr. Al-Singace’s fair trial rights are of such gravity as to render his detention arbitrary under category III.


A DISCRIMINATORY PATTERN BASED ON POLITICAL VIEWS


The Working Group recalled that, when detention has resulted from the active exercise of civil and political rights, there is a strong presumption that the deprivation of liberty also constitutes a violation of international law based on political and other views. The Working Group considered that the events preceding Mr. Al-Singace’s arrest clearly demonstrate a pattern of attitude displayed by the authorities towards him in relation to his peaceful exercise of fundamental rights, which ultimately culminated in his further arrest and detention. Therefore, the Working Group found that Mr. Al-Singace was deprived of his liberty on discriminatory grounds, namely his political or other opinions, contrary to articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2 (1) and 26 of the Covenant, rendering his detention arbitrary within category V.


Last but not least, the Working Group noted that the present case follows the pattern of numerous other cases brought before the Working Group in recent years concerning the arbitrary deprivation of liberty in Bahrain ; arrest without a warrant, pretrial detention with limited access to judicial review, denial of access to lawyers, forced confessions, torture and ill-treatment and denial of medical care. The Working Group recalled that, under certain circumstances, widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity


CONCLUSIONS OF THE UN WORKING GROUP AGAINST ARBITRARY DETENTION


In light of the foregoing, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considered that the detention of Abduljalil Abdulla Yusuf Ahmed Al-Singace was arbitrary and fell under categories I, II, III and V because the deprivation of liberty of M. Al-Singace was in contravention of articles 2, 3, 5–11, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2, 7, 9, 14, 16, 19, 21, 22 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recommended that the Government of f Bahrain take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of M. Al-Singace without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, starting with his immediate release and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.


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