16 Human Rights Organizations Urge Bahrain to Protect Inmates on Death Row

London/Paris- 29 May 2023

16 prominent human rights organizations signed a joint letter addressed to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, urging the Government of Bahrain to take immediate action to protect the rights and well-being of inmates on death row and their families.

The letter highlights reports of excessive use of force, cruel and inhuman punishment, and ill-treatment, which emerged from physical assaults reported by the families of 12 death row inmates detained in Jau Prison on or around May 17, 2023. The organizations express deep concern and call for adherence to Bahrain’s international human rights obligations.

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of Bahrain reportedly initiated an investigation into the incident following notification from the Public Prosecution and Office of the Ombudsman. However, the letter raises concerns about the level of independence of the SIU and its ability to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation. The organizations refer to previous research and findings that question the effectiveness and credibility of the SIU in ensuring accountability.

Furthermore, the letter emphasizes the need for independent mechanisms empowered to consider complaints by pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners, as well as prompt, effective, and impartial investigations into reports of torture or ill-treatment. It also calls for the immediate suspension of individuals under investigation for acts of torture or ill-treatment.

The families of the detained individuals have reported ongoing ill-treatment, torture, and isolation from the outside world, all of which constitute grave human rights violations. The organizations urge the Government of Bahrain to invite relevant experts from the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) to lead the investigation, ensuring its impartiality and legitimacy.

In addition, the joint letter highlights concerns about the use of the death penalty in Bahrain. It recalls flawed trials and an increasing number of death sentences handed down in recent years, despite calls for a moratorium on capital punishment. The organizations call on the Government of Bahrain to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty, commute all death sentences, and consider ratifying or acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The 16 signatory organizations collectively appeal to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to ensure fair and independent investigations that adhere to minimum international standards, including the participation of independent investigators.

The signatories of the letter include:

  • ACAT Germany (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture)
  • Bahrain Center for Human Rights
  • Bahrain Forum for Human Rights
  • Colegio de Abogados y Abogadas de Puerto Rico
  • ECPM (Ensemble contre la peine de mort)
  • Forum Marocain pour la Vérité et la Justice
  • German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (GCADP)
  • Greater Caribbean for Life
  • Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights
  • Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Information Center
  • Regroupement des Jeunes Africains pour la Démocratie et le Développement Section Togo (REJADD-TOGO)
  • SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR)
  • The Advocates for Human Rights
  • The Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide
  • The Sunny Center Foundation 
  • Witness to Innocence