Rights Group Denied Permission to Visit Detainees with Independent Doctors (New York, February 16, 2008) – Bahrain should investigate allegations that security personnel have repeatedly abused detained opposition political activists, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch called on the government to allow independent physicians to examine detainees who have alleged abuse including torture and sexual assault.

The detained activists were among dozens arrested following clashes between protesters and security forces in and around the capital, Manama, in December. In one incident, protesters set fire to a police vehicle. Several detainees now face charges including possession of weapons allegedly stolen from the vehicle. In January, relatives of detainees – and also men who had been detained in connection with the clashes and then released – said that interrogators had tortured several detainees and sexually assaulted at least one.

“The silence of Bahraini authorities in the face of multiple complaints of detainee abuse casts doubt on their commitment to the rule of law,” said Joe Stork, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Bahrain should immediately allow independent physicians to examine detainees who are alleging abuse.”

The Bahrain Human Rights Society, an independent group which has official permission to operate, said on January 27 that it had asked the public prosecutor for permission to visit the detainees but the authorities refused to allow physicians to take part in the visits.

A relative of detainee Mohammed Singace told Human Rights Watch that during a February 11 family visit to the Adliyeh detention facility, Singace recounted a beating that he had received the previous day from two guards at the facility after he had requested to be taken to a hospital for treatment of back injuries.

“He had new bruises and cuts on his face,” Singace’s relative said. “He said he had been handcuffed, dragged out of his cell and beaten with a metal rod.”

Relatives of Singace and of two other detainees, Naji al-Fateel and Hasan Abdelnabi, told Human Rights Watch that these detainees had reported being placed in cells with prisoners suffering from contagious diseases. Relatives of Naji al-Fateel and Hasan Abdelnabi said that these two detainees had recounted, during a family visit on February 11, that guards had beaten them when they protested after hearing Singace scream from a nearby cell.

A relative of Hasan Abdelnabi said he had stated he had been put in a cell with another prisoner who was spitting blood. Abdelnabi said the other prisoner told him, “Stay back and don’t touch any of my things, I have hepatitis.” A relative of one of the detainees told Human Rights Watch that interrogators threatened him that his wife might be assaulted if he refused to confess to involvement in burning the police vehicle.

The three detainees visited by family members on February 11 are affiliated with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) aligned with opposition political movements.

A senior interior ministry official said on January 17 that all those alleging abuse had been examined by a forensic physician who found no evidence of mistreatment. On January 21, Human Rights Watch urged the authorities to allow independent physicians to investigate allegations that several detainees had been subjected to electric shocks, beatings, and in one case sexual assault by interrogators and jailers.

Lawyers representing several of the detainees told Human Rights Watch that they received no response to requests to provide their clients with medical examinations. A lawyer coordinating the defense of several detainees said he had filed a new request for independent medical examinations ahead of meetings between detainees and their lawyers scheduled to take place next week. Lawyers representing the detainees say they have faced lengthy delays in gaining access to their clients.

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Related Material

Bahrain: Investigate Alleged Torture of Activists Press Release, January 21, 2008