30 days detention for Human Rights defender and Al Wefaq leading member, Nizar Al Qari
Update: Al Qari was released after serving 20 days of his 30 days sentence
Nizar Al Qari, a member of the leading opposition party Al Wefaq, was arrested on 5 May and taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). The Bahrain Center for Human Rights are concerned that Al Qari is at risk of torture and ill-treatment whilst detained at the CID.
BCHR Senior Advisor, Sheikh Dr Maytham Al Salman, has said that “Nizar Al Qari is being punished for practicing his right in freedom of expression. The charge of illegal gathering in Duraz is factless and nothing more than an excuse to arrest Nizar”
Al Qari was arrested in the afternoon on 5 May by officers dressed in civilian clothing whilst he was at his father in law’s house in Rifa’a. Security officers presented a summons that failed to provide a reason for the arrest. On the night of his arrest, at around 12:30am, family members report that they received a phone call from Al Qari during which he said that he was being held at the CID but had yet to be questioned. Al Qari did not have access to a lawyer at this time.
On 8 May Al Qari’s legal representation saw Al Qari’s name on a list at the Public Prosecution Office, but was not permitted to attend his interrogation, he saw Al Qari for five minutes after his interrogation had taken place. During this meeting Al Qari told his lawyer that during his detention he had allegedly been subjected to sleep deprivation, and that his hands had been handcuffed behind his back for an extensive period of time. He also told his lawyer that he had been charged with “illegal gathering in Duraz,” and that his detention had been extended to 30 days and that he was to be transferred to Dry Dock Prison. As reported by family members, Al Qari was not transferred to Dry Dock Prison but taken back to the CID.
On 8 May, Al Qari called his family, and requested that his family bring clothes and medication to his place of detention. Al Qari suffers from numerous health conditions including asthma, high blood pressure and heart palpitations. His family delivered these items to the CID, however, they are unsure if he received them due to Al Qari’s repeated requests on 10 and 14 May. During a phone call on 10 May, Al Qari said that he couldn’t speak, his family also reported that he cried throughout the call. On 14 May Al Qari called again, the family report hearing a voice allegedly telling Al Qari what to say during the phone call. Family members also report that he repeatedly said that he was innocent, and that he said ‘bury me next to my sister.’ The phone call was ended abruptly when family members asked Al Qari why he was saying that, and asked if he was being tortured.
Members of Al Qari’s family have submitted complaints to the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) and the Ombudsman of the Ministry of Interior. They have yet to be informed of status of these complaints, or of any investigation conducted. Amnesty International also report that the homes of Al Qari’s father in law, and wife were searched, and electronic devices such as laptops and memory drives were confiscated.
Members of political opposition parties in Bahrain have been subjected to an intensified crackdown orchestrated by the government to silence dissent. In July 2014 Khalil al Marzooq, Assistant Secretary General of Al Wefaq, and its Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman were questioned and charged with “meeting with foreign government officials without notifying the Bahraini government and without the presence of a Bahraini official.” These charges occurred after they attended meetings with the US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.
This crackdown against political activists, and opposition parties was intensified following the forcible dissolution of Al Wefaq in July 2016. Al Wefaq was the largest political opposition group in Bahrain. The dissolution of Al Wefaq was confirmed in September 2016 by Bahrain’s High Court of Appeals.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights urges the government of Bahrain to disclose Al Qari’s legal status, allow Al Qari access to legal representation in line with international protocol, and to ensure that Al Qari receives timely and adequate medical care. BCHR further recommend that allegations of torture, or other ill-treatment, submitted to internal human rights mechanisms by Al Qari’s family are promptly and effectively investigated.