Bahrain confirms death sentences by Instagram after UK ignores calls to intervene

July 13, 2020

Bahrain’s highest court has upheld death sentences against pro-democracy protesters Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa, after the UK Government refused to intervene. The two men, who were both tortured by security services and convicted on the basis of torture confessions, could now be executed at any time.

Mohammed’s wife Zainab reported that she was denied entry to the courtroom. The verdict was announced by the Bahraini Public Prosecutor’s Office on Instagram and Twitter.

The UK Government had declined to make public representations to Bahrain ahead of the Court of Cassation’s verdict, despite demands from MPs and peers of all parties to intervene. Sir Peter Bottomley, Father of the House, wrote to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab asking him to “urgently call for the quashing of Mohammed and Husain’s death sentences.” More than 4,000 people wrote to their MPs asking them to raise the cases.

Since 2012, Britain has provided £6.5 million of technical assistance to Bahrain, including training the Bahraini Ombudsman and Special Investigations Unit (SIU), two institutions which failed to properly investigate Ramadhan and Moosa’s torture.

The two men were granted a case review, and their original death sentences overturned, after they made credible claims that they had been tortured. In January 2020, Bahrain’s high court reimposed their death sentences, stating that the SIU investigation had shown that Moosa’s confession, implicating Ramadhan, was not obtained through torture and could be relied upon.

An assessment by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) concluded that the SIU’s investigation “fails to meet the minimum professional standards and minimum international legal standards to which the Kingdom of Bahrain is subject” and raised additional concerns the SIU is neither independent, nor impartial. The IRCT also found that the 2020 court judgment was “critically flawed.”

In declining to take action before the verdict, Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly committed to raise the cases if the death penalty was handed down, telling the House: “I assure her that if the death penalties are upheld through the Court of Cassation process, the UK will publicly and loudly remind Bahrain of our opposition to the death penalty, and we will continue to seek to have it set aside.”

Reprieve Director Maya Foa said: “What more evidence does the UK Government need that its soft-touch approach to protecting human rights in Bahrain has failed? The UK must now loudly and publicly intervene to save Mohammed and Husain’s lives, as promised, and call for their sentences to be commuted. Now is the moment to make clear that the Government cannot and will not continue to fund institutions that whitewash torture and enable death sentences.”

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said: “Today’s verdict is yet another dark stain in the struggle for human rights in Bahrain, demonstrating the regime’s iron grip over the country’s corrupt judiciary. This horrendous injustice could not have happened without the tacit acceptance of Bahrain’s western allies.”