West News Wire: The United Nations has demanded Naji Fateel, a prominent pro-democracy activist in Bahrain, be released “immediately and unconditionally” and that an inquiry into his possible involvement in torture be opened.
The 48-year-old should have never been detained by the Al Khalifah government, according to a report by the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
The UN declared that Fateel’s arrest lacked “any legal basis” and urged Bahraini officials to look into his arbitrary detention and claims of torture after he was freed.
“The working group notes with alarm the severity of the torture alleged,” the UN report said. It exhorts the government to grant Mr. Fateel an immediate and unconditional release and to see to it that he gets medical attention.
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.
In Bahrain, anti-monarchy protests started in the middle of February 2011 and have grown in strength over time. The demonstrators call for the overthrow of the Al Khalifah dictatorship and the establishment of a democratic, just government that represents all Bahrainis.
However, the unpopular Manama government has reacted to calls for social equality with an iron fist and has ruthlessly crushed dissent.
Human rights advocates claimed that Bahrain’s parliament authorized the use of military tribunals to try anti-regime activists on March 5, 2017, a move that amounted to the imposition of an unofficial martial law.
On April 3, 2017, King Hamad of Bahrain approved the constitutional amendment, further stifling political dissent on the small island in the Persian Gulf under the heavy influence of the Saudi regime.