Peers call on government to save lives of Bahraini torture victims

July 8, 2020

British security assistance to Bahrain was in the spotlight in the House of Lords today, as a cross-party group of peers asked the government to intervene to save the lives of two Bahraini torture victims.

Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa’s final appeal hearing at Bahrain’s Court of Cassation is scheduled for Monday, July 13. Absent UK intervention, their death sentences are likely to be upheld, placing them at imminent risk of execution.

Since 2012, the UK Government has provide at least £5 million of technical assistance to Bahrain, including training the Bahraini Ombudsman and Special Investigations Unit (SIU), two institutions charged with investigating allegations of human rights abuses which failed to properly investigate Ramadhan and Moosa’s torture.

Ramadhan and Moosa were granted a case review, and their original death sentences overturned, after they made credible claims that they were tortured and forced to sign false confessions. In January 2020, Bahrain’s high court reimposed death sentences against the two men, stating that the SIU investigation had shown that the confessions were 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.”

Peers told the Government it has a duty to intervene in the case, to ensure that justice is done. “By any objective legal judgement, Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa have not had due process,” said Baroness Ramsay. “Why can’t the FCO put its mouth where British money is going and very vigorously obtain for these two men, at least now, a delay of execution and a fair trial?”

Lord Scriven added: “Given the failures of the SIU investigation into Mohammed and Husain’s torture identified by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, will HMG finally accept that its technical assistance to Bahrain has failed to achieve its aims and objective and agree to suspend its provision of technical assistance to Bahrain if these men’s death sentences are upheld?”

In response, for the Government, Lord Ahmad would not commit to making representations on behalf of the men before the hearing, saying “it is for the Court of Cassation to make the final decision” and after that decision “we will review whether there is any exemption or clemency that remains an avenue to the King”. He again defended UK technical assistance to Bahrain, saying that it has “yielded positive results”.

Reprieve Director Maya Foa commented: “The Government continues to claim that British security assistance to Bahrain has ‘yielded positive results,’ yet next Monday, two Bahraini men are very likely to be sentenced to death on the basis of torture evidence, following a sham investigation into their mistreatment, supported by British taxpayers. Faced with evidence that UK support to Bahrain has failed and is a fig leaf for severe human rights violations and denial of due process, all Lord Ahmad would say is that the Government continues to monitor the case. The time for monitoring is long past: it is time to intervene, to save these men’s lives.”

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, commented: “At this point Bahrain should have learned that upholding the death sentences against these torture survivors will not pass without consequence. These men have suffered enough injustice at the hands of Bahrain’s corrupt judiciary and I welcome the important intervention by peers in the House of Lords this afternoon.”