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The prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment or punishment is an absolute, non-derogable guarantee and applies in all circumstances, including wartime or times of national emergency. The term “torture” has been defined in article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) as:
“[…] any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”
The practice of torture is widespread all across the MENA region and is mostly practiced after the arrest and before the first presentation before a judicial authority by State agents or with their instigation and/or acquiescence. Cases documented by Alkarama to either the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (SRT) or the Committee against Torture (CAT) follow the same pattern. Individuals are usually taken to unknown locations and denied any contacts to the outside world for a certain period of time, during which they are tortured by the security services in order to extract confessions. These confessions are then used as incriminating evidence against the victim. In other cases, torture is practiced during all stages of detention for punitive purposes against, amongst others, human rights defenders, journalists, peaceful demonstrators or political opponents.
Acts of violence against individuals can also be considered as cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment, when they do not reach the standards of severity specific to torture. Such treatments are equally prohibited at all times and include mistreatments ranging from beating to particularly harsh conditions of detention.
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.
(14 February 2017) Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a prominent Sudanese human rights defender, has been unlawfully detained for over two months, held by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) at Khartoum’s Kober Prison without charge or access to legal representation, 39 human rights groups and activists said.
Bahraini authorities have reached a new low in the arrest and torture of a young man suffering from intellectual disabilities. On 13 December 2017, 18-year-old Kumail Hamida was arrested from his home in the village of Al Sanabis at 4:30 am by masked men in civilian clothing, held incommunicado for three days and subjected to torture to force him to confess to the charges of “participating in demonstrations” and “filming protests”. Kumail was also forced to sign written statements despite the fact that he is unable to read or write.
On 8 February 2017, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) concerning the case of Yousri Kamal Mohamed Abdallah, a 30-year-old Egyptian activist who was arrested on 22 December 2016 by members of the National Security Forces. To date, and despite the numerous letters and requests introduced by his father to the authorities, the latter still refuse to disclose his fate and whereabouts.
On 6 November 2016, Imad Abou Rizk, a 44-year-old sergeant in the Palestinian General Intelligence, was summoned to the investigation office of the General Intelligence in Ramallah and subsequently arrested and severely tortured.
On 29 September 2016, Fadhel Abbas Radhi, also known as Fadhel Abbas, was arrested from his home in Hamad town, at night, by officers of the Special Security Command, also known as the riot police. Since his arrest, Fadhel Abbas has been denied visits by his family and access to his lawyer. He is still reportedly detained at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) building, infamous for the large number of cases of torture reported, and has still not been presented before a judicial authority.
On 5 and 6 December 2016, five young men from the town of Bani Jamrah in north-western Bahrain were arrested from their homes by masked men in civilian clothing between 2 and 6 am. The men, including two minors, were repeatedly beaten all over their body, shackled and forced to stand up for two whole days before being forced to confess to the charge of “participating in demonstrations”.
On 25 January 2017, Alkarama alerted the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) of the abduction of seven students – ranging from 16 to 22 years old – by the State Security between October 2016 and January 2017. Despite their families’ numerous attempts to clarify their fate and whereabouts, the authorities continue to deny their detention.
On 24 January 2017, Alkarama solicited the Special Rapporteur on torture (SRT) on behalf of the Sudanese opposition activists Elwaleed Imam Taha and Elgassim Mohamed Sid-Ahmad, who are currently detained in Al Ha’ir Prison, Saudi Arabia, but fear imminent extradition to Sudan, where they are at high risk of being subjected to torture and prosecuted for making use of their fundamental right to freedom of expression.
On 17 December 2015, Qatari citizen Mohammad Meshab was arrested by the state security forces without a warrant and detained in prolonged solitary confinement until August 2016. Currently on trial, hearings are not being held in public and the principle of presumption of innocence has been violated.