4 August 2015, London – A UK court approved Bahraini Isa Al-Aali’s asylum appeal in a verdict welcomed by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) last week, 28 July.
Judge Clark of the Immigration and Asylum First-tier Tribunal ruled that there is “reasonable chance that the appellant [Al-Aali] would risk persecution on return to Bahrain for his political beliefs” and that he therefore qualifies as a refugee.
Isa Al-Aali, 21, arrived in Britain on 14 February 2014, when he fled Bahrain via Dubai to London on a visit visa. He claimed asylum on the same day and was put into the Detained Fast Track asylum process, a procedure which the High Court has since ruled is unlawful and beyond the powers of the government.
Al-Aali had been a participant in protests in Bahrain. In February 2013 police arrested him, beat him and held a knife against his groin, threatening to cut him if he did not confess to attacking policemen. He was released on bail, but in June that year intelligence officers approached Al-Aali to persuade him to inform on anti-government activists. When he refused, he received death threats. Al-Aali was imprisoned two more times in relation to his assembly and association in 2013, the final time in December 2013. On his release on bail in January 2014, Al-Aali decided to flee the country.
Under the fast track system, Al-Aali was detained for five and a half months in Harmondsworth. On a 20 March 2014 hearing, the judge dismissed Al-Aali’s claim on the assumption that he had fabricated the claim in order to study in the UK. Days later, a Bahrain court sentenced Al-Aali in absentia to five years imprisonment for illegal gathering.
In May 2014, the Home Office ordered Al-Aali’s deportation. The move sparked articles in Bahrain’s pro-government newspapers branding him a “terrorist” and marking the day of his impending arrival. A court injunction stopped the deportation attempt, and Al-Aali was able to appeal his asylum claim.
At the time of the deportation attempt, Al-Aali told the Independent that “The decision by the UK to deport me to Bahrain could put me at risk of my life as I will get tortured.”
The Home Office continued to deny Al-Aali asylum, which Al-Aali’s lawyers argued it could only do by failing to regard the evidence supplied, including evidence given by Amnesty International and Chatham House.
The expert opinion of three UN Special Rapporteurs, including Juan Mendez, SR on Torture, found “serious concern that should Mr. Isa Haider Al-Aali be deported to Bahrain, he may face serious risk of being tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention.”
They further stated that “There is indeed a well-documented pattern of such treatment towards suspected potitical opponents as well as demonstrators in detention.”
Medical reports also found scars on Al-Aali’s body consistent with his accounts of torture, and found that he had developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following his detention in the UK, which was also partially attributable to torture he was subjected to in Bahrain.
Judge Clark stated that the findings of the first tribunal which rejected Al-Aali’s appeal “is diminished in light of the recent suspension of the Fast Track procedural rules by the Court of Appeal”, based on the judgement that “they were unlawful and … placed a detained appellant at a procedural disadvantage. This appellant’s case illustrates that disadvantage.”
“The court ruling has finally ended the Home Office’s attempts to deport a torture victim,”
said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD.
“The government tried to ignore the expert opinion of three UN Special Rapporteurs in this case, all while the UK continues to welcome Bahraini torturers in their country with open arms and unconditional friendship.”
The Home Office’s denial of Isa Al-Aali’s asylum coincided with controversies over the UK welcoming Bahraini Prince Nasser bin Hamad, who faces allegations of torture. In October 2014, Prince Nasser’s immunity from prosecution of torture in the UK was quashed, though he continues to visit the country.
“I want to thank everyone who supported my case, in particular, BIRD and Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei,”
said Isa Al-Aali following the court’s verdict.
“This decision is a slap in the face of the Bahraini government. I will be an ambassador to my country and people, and continue the struggle for human rights and democracy.”