The United Nations has called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of Bahrain’s leading pro-democracy activist Naji Fateel and launch of torture investigations about him.
In a report, the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said the Al Khalifah regime should have never arrested the 48-year-old nearly a decade after he was imprisoned.
The UN said there was “no legal basis” to justify Fateel’s arrest and that, upon his release, Bahraini authorities should investigate his arbitrary detention and alleged torture.
“The working group notes with alarm the severity of the torture alleged,” the UN report said. “It urges the government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr Fateel and ensure that he receives medical care.”
Fateel was a board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and a blogger dedicated to documenting violations when he was arrested in May 2013 over his protest activities.
The pro-democracy activist was allegedly tortured severely for days during which he lost consciousness and needed hospital treatment twice.
Fateel said he signed papers that he was not allowed to read under threat of sustained torture and being denied a lawyer. In 2013, he was convicted in two mass trials that were criticized by UN experts for failing to meet international standards.
Fateel, now 48, has been held in Jau Prison over the past decade, allegedly subject to further torture and ongoing medical neglect.
Sayed Alwadaei, director of advocacy with the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), which filed the claim that initiated the working group’s investigation, said the UN’s findings were “the best we can hope for.”
“You have a recognizable body that reviewed our claim and the government’s claim and made an opinion and that opinion is extremely strong in favour of the prisoner,” he said.
Alwadaei also pointed to ongoing issues that Fateel faces in prison, including a list of health issues that require urgent medical treatment that prison authorities have denied him for several years.
“Some of the pain he feels is a result of a metal rod placed in his left leg after he fell off a three-storey building while documenting a protest in 2011. The rod should have been removed 10 years ago, and now makes it difficult for Fateel to walk and is chronically inflamed,” he added.
This is the third time since 2017 that a UN entity has called for Fateel’s release from the Al Khalifah regime’s prisons.
Anti-monarchy demonstrations in Bahrain began in mid-February 2011 and have gained momentum over the years. The demonstrators demand that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power, and a democratic, just system representing all Bahrainis be established in the country.
The unpopular Manama regime, however, has responded to demands for social equality with an iron fist, ruthlessly clamping down on dissent.
On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of anti-regime activists at military tribunals in a measure the human rights campaigners said amounted to the imposition of an undeclared martial law.
The Bahraini monarch, King Hamad, ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3, 2017, bringing about further suppression of political dissent on the tiny Persian Gulf island under the strong influence of the Saudi regime.