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For Immediate Release

Bahrain Convictions Provide Welcome — Though Still Rare — Measure of Justice

Cambridge, MA - 01/04/2013

The recent conviction of two Bahraini intelligence agents in the April 2011 beating death of a Shia businessman provides a welcome dose of justice in that troubled Gulf kingdom, PHR said today. But the seven-year sentences were very lenient, given the severity of the crime, and high-ranking officials who encouraged or condoned such behavior have still never been charged.

Bahrain’s High Criminal Court convicted the two men of manslaughter in the death of Karim Fakhawri, a founder and board member of the Al-Wasat opposition newspaper, who was detained after he had gone to the police station to complain about the planned demolition of his house.

Court documents reportedly said that the two agents beat Fakhawri with a toilet seat repeatedly, even after he had fallen to the ground and ceased all resistance.

An April 2011 report by PHR concludes, based on postmortem photographs of Fakhawri, that he died in custody with extensive soft-tissue injuries consistent with torture, though the exact cause of death could not be ascertained because no autopsy was performed.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, released in November 2011, concluded that Fakhawri had died after being tortured. But the prosecutor in the case dropped the torture allegation and instead accused the two policemen of the less serious charge of “beating leading to death.” The maximum sentence for “torture leading to death” is life imprisonment.

“The court’s sentences, though not commensurate with the magnitude of the human rights abuses, provide some grounds for hoping that Bahrain may eventually sanction some of the perpetrators of the most egregious abuses,” said Richard Sollom, deputy director of PHR. “But the regime still has done far too little to implement promised reforms of its security and judicial systems, and has shown no willingness to pursue charges against senior officials implicated in human rights violations.”

The BICI report concluded that in light of the pattern of impunity for torture, the Government should ensure punishment consistent with the gravity of the offense. But despite the regime’s 2011 pledge to implement the report’s recommended reforms, torture reportedly continues today in secret detention facilities.

Lawyers for the two agents have indicated that they will appeal the convictions.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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