Since December 17th, 2007, the unfortunate day in which Ali Jassim Mohammed died after a demonstration commemorating an unofficial Martyr’s Day, protests have not stopped in Bahrain. These protests resulted in further detentions, some of which have lasted for more than four months.
Those detained allege gross abuse of their human rights and have received support from national and international human rights organisations who demanded their release and for the authorities to stop abusing prisoners. Some prisoners’ health has deteriorated appreciably since incarceration, some say again due to ill treatment. One of those detained apparently lies in hospital at the moment due to kidney-related complications. Repeated calls for the government to allow doctors to see and examine the prisoners to see to their health and ascertain whether they have actually been subjected to torture has been resolutely refused by the ministry then, but only allowed months after the demands were made, observers suggest that doctors cannot determine whether detainees have been abused because all evidence of those allegations would have now disappeared.
This situation does not help us at all. Especially the fact that the accused’s long periods of detention on the premise of “continuing investigations”, a situation which seems to promote indefinite detentions without charging the accused with any criminal activities. This is unacceptable. A limit to how many hours or days a person could be detained should be set in law, and if prosecutors cannot or do not show concrete evidence of wrong-doing, that person must be presumed innocent and released from custody.
Allegations of torture destroy a country’s credibility, especially one which has been advertising itself rather vigorously as one that is embarking on reforms and trying very hard to attract international investment, both of which will simply not take place unless a clear and transparent effort is immediately made to investigate these allegations and put the perpetrators of this alleged torture – if found to be true – on public trial.
I firmly believe that criminals must be made to bear the consequences of their crimes. If a person turns violent and burns a police jeep, damages private property, or kills an innocent soul, that person must be made accountable for his crimes. Therefore, if those detained are independently judged to have committed the crime of burning a jeep and stealing weapons and ammunitions from that jeep, then they most definitely should serve time in prison, they cannot and should not be let go. But if the prosecution service cannot find evidence of them perpetrating that crime then of course they should be released.
Special consideration must be given to those who fall ill during incarceration; regardless of crime committed, as it is simply of human decency to make medical attention available to that person. Let alone one who has simply been accused of criminal activity without solid evidence being presented.
Therefore, I highly encourage our chief reformer, our crown prince Shaikh Salman, to add Judicial Reforms to his already brimming plate of reforms. I think that without people trusting the judicial system before anything else, no real reform can take place in this country.
I urge him to look into this situation; especially as people have now started to believe that those detained were not incarcerated for them being involved in the burning of the jeep, but were simply due to their political beliefs.
It might interest you to know that one of those detained, and whose health is very much in jeopardy at the moment, had been a blogger. His blog – in Arabic – is available at http://bahraineyes.blogspot.com/.
I hope that common sense will prevail.