On 14 February 2017, on the sixth anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising in Bahrain, a number of protests were held all over the country including in the village of Samaheej, north eastern Bahrain, where mass arrests were conducted by the riot police. Among those arrested was 16-year-old Abbas Aoun Faraj, commonly known as Abbas Aoun, who had not taken part in the protests and who was a few meters from his house when the riot police violently apprehended him. Abbas was detained incommunicado, denied the right to a lawyer and forced to confess his “participation in demonstrations”. Concerned that his coerced confession will be used against him in a court of law to convict him, Alkarama seized the Special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (SRFPAA) Maina Kiai, requesting his urgent intervention with the Bahraini authorities regarding the case Abbas Aoun and calling for his immediate release.
Abbas Aoun was near his home when riot police officers violently arrested him by beating him on the head, pulling his shirt over it and dragging him away by the neck. When his mother and sister tried to speak with the officers, they slapped the latter and pushed them back by hitting them with their rifles. Abbas Aoun was then transferred to the Samaheej police station where he was detained incommunicado. Denied the right to legal counsel, he was threatened with torture by his interrogators to force him to confess that he participated in the protests. On 16 February 2017, Abbas Aoun was presented to the General Prosecutor, to whom he reported the ill-treatment and threats he was subjected to and recanted the confessions he made under duress. The General Prosecutor ignored his allegations and charged him with “participating in demonstrations”.
On 16 February 2017, Alkarama therefore addressed a communication to the SRFPAA requesting his urgent intervention with the Bahraini authorities calling for the immediate release of 16-year-old Abbas Aoun. Alkarama further requested the SRFPAA to remind Bahrain of its international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to refrain from violently repressing protests and violently arresting protestors and bystanders.
“Amid mounting repression and violent crackdowns and arrests in Bahrain as well as the increasing political tension, Alkarama has been documenting growing numbers of cases related to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and expects to witness a surge in such cases,” said Julia Legner, Alkarama’s Gulf Regional Officer. “Besides the repression of fundamental freedoms, we are concerned by the fact that such cases are also often accompanied by allegations of torture to force victims to confess their participation in demonstrations. The 2011 violent crackdown must serve as a lesson to the Bahraini authorities who must prevent the commission of grave violations at the scale they were committed six years ago.”
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