British-Bahraini asks Swiss to probe Bahrain attorney general for torture

by Reuters
Tuesday, 15 September 2015 18:10 GMT

ZURICH, Sept 15 (Reuters) - A British-Bahraini man who says he was tortured in Bahrain in 2010 has filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland against Bahrain's attorney general, who was visiting Zurich for an international conference, the man's supporters said on Tuesday.

Four activist groups urged Swiss prosecutors to take up the politically sensitive case lodged against Ali Bin Fadhul Al-Buainain by Jaafar Al-Hasabi in the canton of Berne.

"The Swiss authorities have the opportunity to show they take the UN Convention against Torture seriously and to apply their national law accordingly," said Wolfgang Kaleck, general secretary of the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.

"Opening an investigation into the role of the Bahraini Attorney General and calling him for questioning would send a clear message against torture and in support of the principle of universal jurisdiction," he added in a statement.

Reuters was unable to reach Al-Buainain immediately for comment.

Christoph Scheurer, a prosecutor in Berne, confirmed receipt of the complaint. "This will be reviewed thoroughly and then the required steps will be launched," he said by email.

Asked if authorities would question the Bahraini official during his stay in Switzerland, Scheurer said prosecutors would not announce any procedural steps via the media.

The International Association of Prosecutors, whose conference Al-Buainain was attending, declined to comment on allegations against its members.

"The global advancement of the rule of law and the protection of fundamental human rights are cornerstones of our association," it said, adding prosecutors must be held to the same accountability and enjoy the same presumption of innocence as any other citizen.

Thirty-three countries including the United States and Britain expressed concern this week about Bahrain's human rights record, urging the Western-allied kingdom to protect the right to peaceful assembly and address reports of torture.

Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, was swept by unrest during the 2011 "Arab Spring" uprisings when majority Shi'ites, complaining of discrimination, demanded political reforms. The Sunni-led government denies discrimination.

Since then there have been sporadic protests and a growing number of bomb attacks that the government attributes to dissidents with links to Shi'ite power Iran. Iran denies any role in subversion or violence in Bahrain.

The Bahraini government said 17 policeman have been killed and 3,328 wounded since 2011 in bomb attacks or violence it says was stirred up by the opposition.

The opposition says the government is attempting to stifle free speech by jailing peaceful political dissidents.

Bahrain has said individuals who were questioned or imprisoned by the authorities had violated the law and this had nothing to do with freedom of expression or human rights.

The four activist groups supporting Al-Hasabi, who now lives in London, said his complaint alleges Al-Buainain participated in torture. Al-Hasabi was granted asylum in the United Kingdom.

"Despite the United Nations' expressed concerns as to his incommunicado detention and risk of torture, the Bahraini Public Prosecution Office, headed by Al-Buainain, authorized this incommunicado detention twice," the statement said. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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