An old piece published on a site that no longer exists; I’m just trying to keep my writing all in the same place
“What is the most mind-boggling is that it is so easy to deport someone or to sentence a human rights defender to life imprisonment, but it is so difficult to find accountability for a prince,” Maryam Alkhawaja, Acting President, Bahrain Center for Human Rights [Huffington Post]
As the clouds broke across Britain this week and many of us stretched our faces towards the sunlight, breathing in the summer breeze, not all were so lucky as to enjoy such a reprieve. It’s not the grey British sky, however, but the cold stone walls and repressive bureaucracy of the Home Office that kept some from the sense of such freedom. Of people who come to Britain seeking asylum, roughy 12% a year find themselves locked up in brutal private detention centres, and slated for deportation back to violence, torture and even death, without due process in this country of ours. The incredible inequities of the Detained Fast Track (DFT) machine were brought to light 10 days ago when detainees across the UK participated in sit-ins and hunger strikes demanding change a system that unfairly detains people in unsafe and violent conditions, lacking access to mental health resources or health care and deports them without adequate time or resources to prepare a claim for asylum.
One such protester, 19 year old Isa Haider Al Aali, has been slated for forced removal this Thursday, back to Bahrain. Isa fled Bahrain in February of this year, seeking asylum in the UK. In his absence, the Bahraini court sentenced him to 5 years in prison for participating in protests against the government. This government has been accused of killing nearly 100 protesters and citizens since the uprising of 2011, using weaponized tear gas and bird shot against activists and civilians alike, in the streets and in mosques, and using torture against people in detention. Isa’s deportation will be directly into the hands of such forces where he faces imprisonment and fears torture.
“The decision by the UK to deport me to Bahrain could put me at risk of my life as I will get tortured,” said Isa in a recent interview with The Independent.
According to the Bahrain Human Rights Society, Isa’s first arrest was following peaceful pro-democracy protests in February, 2013. During this arrest, he was thrown out of a moving vehicle whilst in handcuffs, beaten, and threatened with genital mutilation and death at knife-point. After 90 days in prison he was released, and asked to inform against other protesters. In the face of his refusal, he was threatened with further arrest and death. Since then, he has been imprisoned twice, both times being subjected to further violence. He fled Bahrain after being released on bail from his last arrest, seeking asylum in the UK. He was subsequently sentenced in abstentia to 5 years in prison by a Bahraini court.
Just today, a Bahraini state newspaper reported on Isa’s removal order with the headline “Haider, will return on Thursday!” under which they proclaim him a terrorist to be brought back to the hands of the government, according to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
Though it’s sadly not uncommon for the UK to deport people back into life-threatening situations in their country of origin, the timing of this is particularly curious given that it comes amid shocking revelations about the alleged involvement of the Bahraini royal family with torture this week, as a legal challenge to the protective shroud of diplomatic immunity possessed by the King’s son, Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, was revealed by the Financial Times in relation to charges that he participated in the torture of pro-democracy activists during the 2011 uprisings.
Calls to arrest Nasser during a 2012 visit to the UK were initially rejected on the grounds of diplomatic immunity as commander of Bahrain’s Royal Guard, but a case challenging this was revealed on Friday, May 9th by the High Court, and the case will proceed in October. Participation in torture by a public official is a prosecutable offence under the UK Criminal Justice Act of 1988.
These accusations were revealed in the same week as Bahraini pro-democracy activists protested the royal treatment of the Bahraini monarchy at the Windsor Horse Show. Bahraini pro-democracy activists protested the welcome of the rulers of the Bahraini regime by the UK head of state, who has been a supporter of the regime despite the myriad of accusations of brutality.
According to the Huffington Post, Bahraini activists in the UK have accused the UK government of assisting Bahrain in it’s attempts to cover up their regimes brutality, in the interest of trade deals and influence in the gulf. Prince Andrew, in particular, has spoken in defence of the Bahraini royal family although he cancelled his planned attendance at a pro-Bahrain regime event in London on Friday at the last minute.
In the wake of these revelations and amid such growing protest it seems particularly heinous to be deporting Alaali to certain imprisonment where it is clear that Bahrain’s judiciary is corrupt and such imprisonment likely means ongoing torture.
It seems even more suspect that such a deportation happens in the wake of recent hunger strikes by migrants in detention across the UK. Isa was among over 330 people who participated in hunger strikes early this month, protesting the conditions in the detention centres as well as the Detained Fast Track process overall. In addition to poor to no access to healthcare and mental health care in the detainment centres, migrants held have been subject to violence by guards, leading to deaths in custody over the past years. Harmondsworth, where Isa was detained, has the highest record of deaths in custody.
Sadly, the conditions in Harmondsworth, grim as they are, are likely much less-harrowing than what Isa will face should he be essentially deported into the hands of the Bahraini regime later this week.
“No asylum-seeker arriving from Bahrain should be processed and detained under the fast track process,” according to renowned migrant rights solicitor Sue Willton.“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.”
By forcibly removing Isa from the UK back to Bahrain, the Home Office is not only in direct contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights against deporting a person at risk of torture. This convention, however, is something that the Home Secretary Theresa May wants scrapped, claiming such human rights get in the way of the UKs ability to act in it’s national interest. Of what interest is it to the UK to send a young man standing up for democracy to almost certain torture? Is it merely part of their on-going attack on migrants in the UK, particularly whilst pandering to the growing right-wing nationalist flames fanned by parties such as UKIP and Britain First? Or is it because of Britain’s close relationship with Bahrain? By sending Isa back, the Home Office is clearly helping to obscure the very brutal reality of the Bahraini regime. But most imminently, they are putting Isa at clear risk of torture and possibly death, sending a message that the well-being and in fact the very lives of those who stand up for democracy are not to be valued.
As John Horne, of Bahrain Watch says, “It is an absolute betrayal of the Government’s claims to uphold human rights when it seeks to deport a young activist who fled persecution and now faces imminent imprisonment and possible torture.”
See the full backgrounder on Isa’s case.
Please join us in our call to stop the removal of Isa. You can contact your local MP through this website https://www.writetothem.com/ and ask them to intervene with the Home Office on Isa’s account. Please be polite and clear in the request.
For other inquiries or offers of support, please contact Sayed Ahmed Al Wadaei (Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy) at firstname.lastname@example.org