Summary and Current Status
Hassan Salman Matooq, an emergency room nurse at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Bahrain, was released from Jaw central prison on March 23, 2014, after serving his three-year prison sentence in its entirety. He had been arrested on March 24, 2011, by 20 masked men while on duty at the hospital. Mr. Matooq was held incommunicado for several weeks, during which time he allegedly was tortured, including kicking, beating, deprivation of sleep, and verbal abuse. An avid photography enthusiast, his camera and film were confiscated by authorities, as well as his car and wedding ring. On May 12, 2012, Bahrain’s National Safety Court (a military court) found Mr. Matooq guilty of participating in rallies without permission, gathering with more than five people without authorization, fabricating photos of the wounded during the uprisings that began in the country in February 2011, and broadcasting false news and fabricated photos about Bahrain to distort its reputation. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Subsequently, the verdict was upheld after two appeals—one before a military court of appeals in June 2011 and the other before the civilian Court of Cassation in November 2011.
Hassan Salman Matooq is a nurse and amateur photographer. He worked for seven years as an emergency room specialist and had planned to continue his studies to earn a Ph.D. While working the night shift in the Emergency Department of the Salmaniya Medical Complex on March 24, 2011, he was arrested. According to his colleagues’ testimony, Mr. Matooq was approached at around 1 a.m. by several masked police officers and security guards who assaulted him and took him to a police station. There he was held for three weeks before he was permitted to call his family and alert them to his whereabouts. While in police detention, he reportedly was beaten, tortured, and forced to sign false confessions that were then used by the prosecution to convict him.
On March 15, 2011, Bahrain’s King al-Khalifa issued Royal Decree 18/2011, which established a State of National Safety (a type of State of Emergency) in Bahrain for three months. This decree included the creation of military national safety courts to investigate and prosecute crimes related to the uprisings. According to a Human Rights Watch report based on interviews with defendants, former detainees, defense lawyers, and trial observers, as well as court records, medical documents, and other relevant material, the National Safety Court—which tried Mr. Matooq—repeatedly failed to respect and protect basic due process rights during its existence. This assessment supports the findings of the November 2011 report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)—a commission comprised of five international and well-respected judicial and human rights experts whose stated purpose was to investigate abuses committed during the February-March 2011 protests in Bahrain and other alleged abuses in the months that followed.
The BICI report, in recommendation numbers 1720 and 1722, called for the sentences and verdicts issued by the National Safety Court to be reviewed by Bahrain’s civilian courts, specifically those sentences against people not accused of practicing or inciting violence. In response, on December 24, 2012, the public prosecutor ordered that all charges related to the right to freedom of expression be dropped. However, this order was not widely implemented, and many of the people whose charges related to freedom of expression remained in prison and were forced to serve out their sentences, including Mr. Matooq.
Additionally, the BICI’s report recommended that the government of Bahrain independently and impartially investigate allegations of torture in accordance with the standards set out in the United Nations’ Istanbul Protocol. To the best of our knowledge, no investigation meeting the BICI’s criteria of impartiality and independence, to date, has been made into Mr. Matooq’s allegations that he was tortured while in detention.