The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses grave concern over the continued suppression of freedom of speech in Bahrain over the Internet, most recently reaffirmed by the kidnapping and the detention of online user Jaffar Al-Demstani for tweeting about torture.
On 19 June 2013, at 12:39 pm, Jaffar Al-Demstani posted tweets on his personal Twitter account explaining that his imprisoned father, nurse Ebrahim AlDemstani, refused to attend a prison visit for the second time in protest against the authorities' denial of granting him access to a specialist doctor for his back pain. Jaffar tweeted that the back injury his father suffers from is due to the torture he received at the hands of Lieutenant-Colonel Mubarak ben Huwail. He added that his father had been beaten on the back with hammers causing a fracture in his tailbone. Those were the last tweets from Jaffar Al-Demstani.
At around 3 am on 20 June, Al-Demstani's house in Barbar was raided by armed masked men in civilian clothes believed to belong to the secret police of the Interior Ministry. They kidnapped Al-Demstani and took him to an unknown location. His family searched for him at the Budaiya police station but officials denied having him in custody, a standard response in these cases.
By 23 June, there was no news about Al-Demstani's whereabouts or his state of wellbeing. There is great concern that he might be subject to torture given his current status of incommunicado detention.
BCHR has previously documented the torture of medics and doctors in Bahrain prison including nurse Ebrahim Al-Demstani, Jaffar's father, who is now serving a three-year prison sentence at Jaw Prison since 2 October 2012 for his role in treating protesters in 2011.
BCHR have received reports that since his arrest in October 2012, Ebrahim has been deprived from access to the medical care he requires for the pain in his back, a direct result of the severe torture he was subjected to following his first arrest.
It should be noted that the name of Lt-Colonel Mubarak ben Huwail has been repetitively mentioned by victims of torture, and many of the detained medics and doctors. He is currently on trial for the torture of four of the medics and doctors, however he is still on active duty in his position as the director of drug detection.
“The principal investigator, Maj Mubarak bin Huwail, tortured us. He blindfolded and handcuffed us during the interrogation. He wrote whatever he wanted to write and then took our signatures on the false statements by beating us. We were humiliated, intimidated and degraded.” – Rula AlSafar, the nursing society chief who was arrested on 4 April 2011.
BCHR believes that the arrest of Jaffar for his tweets about torture comes as part of the impunity policy granted for torturers in Bahrain and as a result of the ongoing surveillance of online posts and threats to freedom of speech directed towards those who expose violations to human rights over social media.
Based on the above, BCHR calls for:
- The immediate and unconditional release of Jaffar Al-Demstani , as well as all prisoners of conscience, as they have been arrested based on reasons related to their practice of their fundamental right to freedom of expression;
- The immediate and unconditional release of Jaffar's father, nurse Ebrahim Al-Demstani and the imprisoned medics and doctors who are serving prison sentences for their role in treating injured protesters;
- An immediate end to acts of kidnapping and forced disappearances of detainees;
- Holding Mubarak Bin Huwail and other officers proved to be involved in torturing detainees accountable of their crimes;
- Holding accountable all higher officials who are aware of and/or order such violations;
- Provide all prisoners with the medical care they require without restrictions and discrimination.