Bahraini NGO’s call on the UK Home Office to urgently halt deportation of Isa Al-Ali to Bahrain
19-year-old Isa Haidar Al Aali
Isa Haidar Al-Aali, 19 years old has been detained by UK immigration authorities for over three months. Isa’s application for asylum has been refused twice and a deportation order made was issued last week for immediate deportation on 22 May 2014 despite having been sentenced in absentia to a 5 years imprisonment by a Bahraini court. Based on recent evaluations by global and local NGOs, Isa has not and will not receive a fair trial in Bahrain and will almost certainly be exposed to physical and psychological harm by Bahraini authorities.
Based on the ongoing documentation of torture by local activists and NGOs over the past 3 years, the risk factors are clear:
1. Bahrainis with a suspected or actual association to unauthorised peaceful protests are at significant risk of arbitrary arrest and torture.
2. The partial judiciary in Bahrain is unwilling and unable of providing a fair trial that meets minimum international standards.
3. The risk of greater persecution given the media profile of Isa Al-Aali will be used against him and will only exacerbate the risk of harm if he is forced to return.
On 19 May 2014, a Bahraini pro-government newspaper targeted, defamed and labelled 19-year-old Isa Haider Al Aali as a “terrorist” confirming the imminent risk of torture that he faces on his return to Bahrain. The headline states, “Haider, will return on Thursday!”. The underlying tone of the article is threatening and should be taken as an ominous warning.
Sue Willman, partner at Deighton Pierce Glynn, following the case closely has condemned the decision to deport Isa when he faces the imminent risk of torture and ill-treatment, stating “no asylum-seeker arriving from Bahrain should be processed and detained under the fast track process, which is aimed at speedy resolution of straightforward cases. Bahrain has a well-documented recent history of torture and human rights violations verified by an independent commission. Isa Al Aali continuing detention and threatened removal represents a serious injustice.”
Human Rights Watch’s Nick McGeehan stated that “there is a significant risk that anyone returned to Bahrain to face criminal charges relating to domestic dissent or national security will be subjected to torture.”
Credible Risk of Imminent Torture
Bahrain has been repeatedly accused of systematic torture. This has included an independent commission of inquiry report that was appointed by the ruler of Bahrain in 2011 and subsequents reports from independent NGO’s such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Redress that has gathered forensic documentation of torture.
Not only has the practice of torture continued in 2014, but Bahraini authorities have moved towards criminalising victim allegations of tortured. Human Rights Watch has stated that “Bahrain has a well-deserved reputation for torture” and that this reputation is “all of its own making.” Amnesty International has investigated the torture and sexual abuse of children in detention. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights continues to document cases of horrific torture during detention and arrests including the case of Isa Al-Aali.
It is important to note that this is not the first case of Bahraini asylum seeker mistreatment in the UK. In February 2014 Bahrain Watch expressed concerns at the detention of two high profile Bahraini activists on their arrival to Heathrow Airport seeking asylum from persecution who were later released.
Bahraini NGOs call for an immediate review of the case of Isa Al Aali in the UK in consideration of the high risk of torture and ill-treatment in detention following his 5 year sentence in absentia and targeting in state media. We call for an immediate injunction on the deportation order which we understand will be filed this week. This case is a black and white meritorious claim of asylum and should take into account the risk factors of torture, unfair trial and harassment that the young man will face if returned to Bahrain.
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
Background to the case
Isa Haidar Al-Aali is a victim of targeted state violence in Bahrain and was arrested three times for exercising his basic human right to peaceful protest and political expression since 2011. He has been tried on three different cases and was finally sentenced to 5 years imprisonment in an unfair trial by international standards. In 2013 Human Rights Watch highlighted the opaqueness of Bahrain’s judicial system claiming an inability of Bahrain’s judicial system to protect basic rights. In 2013 Human Rights Watch claimed that Bahrain’s judicial system has is unable to protect basic rights.
He was first detained in Bahrain on 15 February 2013 during a peaceful protest where he was subjected to physical abuse. This included handcuffing from behind and being pushed into a moving security vehicle. During detention, Isa was punched, kicked, and beaten with batons and police helmets. In addition to this, police officers threatened to cut-off Isa’s genetelia and kill him if he did not admit to the allegations.
Having been subjected to physical and verbal abuse on each occasion, Isa fled to the UK seeking asylum after his third arrest. Isa was placed on Fast Track Detention (FTD) on his arrival to Heathrow Airport on 14 February 2014.
Isa’s application for asylum was refused on 11 March 2014 after almost one month of being placed on FTD at Harmondsworth Detention Centre in London. His asylum claim was considered by the Home Office without waiting for translations of the evidential documents that he had provided in Arabic. As a result, his appeal against the refusal was quashed by the First Tier Tribunal on 24 March 2014 with the Home Office challenging the authenticity of the documents provided. The documents that were provided at the time were not translated into English.
Between 14 February and 6 March 2014, Isa was not provided with a lawyer nor an explanation of immigration proceeding in the UK. This provided him with no chance to prepare his defence and subsequently given no indication of the need to translate his documents to English. A lawyer was only provided a day before his asylum interview on 7 March 2014. Isa later appealed the decision of the Home Office to reject his asylum application but his appeal was rejected at first instance. It was then Isa received a 5 year prison sentence and given his official court documents.
Permission was granted to appeal to the Upper Tribunal and Isa lodged his appeal on 14 March 2014. Isa included official court papers in his evidential dossier alongside letters from civil society organisations confirming his subjection to ill-treatment and torture in Bahrain alongside two expert opinions confirming the authenticity of the documents provided. These were also translated, in full, into English.
Although his appeal was refused by the Upper Tier Tribunal on 22 April 2014, the judge recognised the significance of the fresh evidence provided claiming:
“Given that the appellant is in custody I would hope that any application to the Respondent for further consideration would be made without delay and considered without delay: If there were to be re-hearing on such issues it seems to me that the nature of the evidence and the complexity of the case as evolving would now render it perhaps not suitable for Fast Track Procedures.”
It is important to note that what the Upper Tribunal rejected was the decision of the first instance judge providing that the FTT decision was reasonable on the evidence at the time. However, when considering the new evidential dossier that was submitted and translated, the judge found that these could provide the grounds for a fresh claim which would be not suitable for the Fast Track Procedures.
Following the judgement, Isa was handed a false rejection by officers that was in reality attributable to a fellow detainee and telling him that they will purchase him a ticket for deportation within two days. Isa was refused an interpreter when asked for one only to find out that the rejection he was provided with was not in his name when a fellow detainee informed him back in his cell.
On 9 May 2014, Isa’s fresh claim was rejected despite the comments made by the Upper Tier Tribunal judge. Isa’s fresh appeal was argued not to have amounted to a fresh claim in addition to the previously considered material contradicting the comments of the Upper Tribunal judge. When Isa asked authorities to be deported to any other country that allows him entry other than Bahrain, it was rejected.
On 15 April 2014 the Home Office ordered that he be deported to Bahrain within one week. If he is deported, Isa faces a high risk of torture or ill-treatment in detention. This contradicts Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibits torture in absolute terms. Both the Chahal v United Kingdom (1997) and Soering v United Kingdom (1989) cases extended this prohibition to state conduct regarding deportation or extradition where the victim is under risk of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the recipient State.
For media inquiries contact Sayed Ahmed Al Wadaei (Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy).
For more information regarding torture in Bahrain contact Nicholas McGeehan (Human Rights Watch).