BHRC submits amicus to the Bahrain Court of Cassation in “fundamentally flawed” proceedings against two men on death row who allege they were tortured

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) has submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Kingdom of Bahrain’s Court of Cassation with respect to Mohamed Ramadan and Husain Moosa, two men facing execution in Bahrain. Mr Ramadan and Mr Moosa were convicted of carrying out a 2014 bombing in Bahrain. Both men allege that police tortured them into making false confessions. The case is due to be heard on Monday 13 July.

The amicus follows a petition submitted by BHRC on 6 October 2017 to His Majesty the King of Bahrain in support of applications for clemency on behalf of Mr Ramadan and Mr Moosa. The 2017 petition called for clemency to be shown in the cases of both men and for judicial processes to be reopened on the grounds that the trials of Mr Ramadan and Mr Moosa failed to comply with fair trial standards, and to observe ‘super due process’ as required in capital cases by international law. 

Following intense pressure from international observers including the UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings, Agnes Callamard, and human rights groups including Reprieve and Amnesty, the case was reopened and referred back to the Court of Cassation by the Ombudsman and the Special Investigation Unit of the Public Prosecutor. However, on 8 January 2020, the Court of Appeal dismissed the grounds for review and upheld the earlier convictions and sentences, relying on the reasoning of the original trial court, and failing to consider independent medical expert evidence which highlighted multiple failures to comply with the Istanbul Protocol (IP).

The amicus, drafted by Executive Committee member Pete Weatherby QC, identifies a number of serious problems with the approach and analysis of the Court of Appeal in failing to address the due process arguments in the case, and repeating the erroneous reasoning of the earlier trial courts, including:

  • Medical evidence was considered only from a number of doctors from Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) without referring to independent expert review or analysis which is available in this case. Dr Brock Chisholm, a UK expert in examination of torture victims reviewed the MoI medical reports, asserting that they were non-compliant with international standards, and advised that they ought to be “completely disregarded.”  Professor Jason Payne-James of the Independent Forensic Expert Group, IFEG, has provided further expert opinion that there were multiple failures to comply with the IP, and that MoI medical examinations were “superficial” and “ineffective”. 
  • The allegations were not looked at in the context of the lack of corroborative evidence. The convictions of both Mr Ramadan and Mr Moosa rely substantially on the confession of Mr Moosa. The reliability of that confession was fundamentally undermined by the failure to comply with both domestic and international law safeguards, in particular the failure to allow access to lawyers throughout the interrogation and investigative process, and refusal of access to independent medical examiners. 
  • None of the defendants, including Mr Ramadan and Mr Moosa, were allowed to instruct or be examined by independent medical examiners at any point prior to, during, or after the trial, despite the allegations of all of them that they had been induced to make confessions under torture.
  • The allegations of torture and ill-treatment should not be considered in a vacuum. The UN Committee against Torture has recognised that there continue to be numerous and consistent allegations of widespread torture and ill-treatment in Bahrain, connected to disputed confessions.

BHRC considers the convictions in these cases to be “fundamentally flawed” in accordance with both domestic and international law. Furthermore, the death sentences are themselves a breach of Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the trials did not comply with “super due process” as required in capital cases.

You can read the article in the Independent on the amicus and upcoming trial here.