Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lamees Dhaif's speech on Torturers' Impunity at the United Nations



In the year 2004 I was volunteering in a human rights committee to monitor violations and help victims of torture, when a young graceful man entered. He was about my age, and would only speak to the committee of veteran human rights activists upon my departure. I left the committee with a heavy sense of humiliation, but after only a few minutes the same man came hastily out after wetting his pants. I looked away to avoid embarrassing him, but our eyes met for a glimpse, I still to this day remember the look in his eyes; a combination of oppression, pain, anger, shame and despair.
Later I recognized that he was one of the detainees from the nineties that were arrested and viciously tortured. He was a teenager at that time, but he was abused repeatedly, hanged from the ceiling, forced to relieve himself in this position, and was beaten on his kidneys and bladder until their functions disrupted… After this bitter ordeal, and at his early age, the young man suffered from insomnia, involuntary bedwetting, isolation and depression. In our conservative societies it very easy to be transformed from a victim into an outcast individual… No one would marry; people would shy away from your friendship after your manhood was desecrated.

A youth like this is not a unique example in a country like Bahrain where torture and all sorts of derogatory practices were routinely practiced in detention centers between the years 1975 and 1999. With the death of the former Amir, and after his young son took throne, everyone welcomed the new ruler and felt optimistic about his initial steps for reform, however the impunity of the torturers and criminals quickly took us back to square one, after several years of relative calmness.
On February 19th, last year, and after the launch of the public demands that were confronted with suppression and bullets, and while I was walking through the wounded masses who fell during the mass demonstrations that had started and did not subside for more than a year, I found myself in front of him again, the same young man that was raped who I had met 7 years ago, he was the most calm of the wounded as if he was celebrating death, he looked at me as if to say: My stolen dignity… will return.
This youngster and thousands others are some of the victims of Decree No. 56 issued in 2002, and whoever has not heard of this decree before, we say that the proof of innocence granted by the King to all those who committed crimes of killing and torture before this date, under this decree, no citizen is entitled to pursue or demand the punishment of his torturers during the dark state-security era; this decree allowed human rights violators to renounce responsibility – definitely not out of protection for them – but out of protection for those who gave them the green light to commit those abhorrent practices, and some of them were – and still are – holding senior positions in the pyramid of power. I can say that those victims were wronged twice: once when they were hideously tortured, and when they were deprived the right of justice a thousand times which intensified their physical and mental sufferings, and this happened to thousands of victims who could not find anyone to avenge for them.

The impunity of those paved way for torture's return after years of absence, which equals – or exceeds – what the people knew in the seventies up to the nineties, some of them were still practicing their military work although their hands are stained with blood. Others were leading extreme civil militias, which the regime turns a blind eye to in an apparent encouragement to them. One of the melodramatic absurdity is that the Bahraini regime is facing all the crimes of murder and torture of innocents "including the ones who died under torture in prison" with one reply: we will "seriously" investigate those accusations… and what is deplorable is that those "serious" investigations did not result in convicting a single military worker, not even a single one, during all those years and regardless of the fall of all those victims!!
Today, in our detention centers, the methods of torture, inhumane and derogatory treatment varies inside the prison cell, and the scope of victims widened to include women, who the regime had avoided causing them harm in the past decades. We have received extremely disturbing information stating that the regime is making use of subhuman monsters such as Saddam's Commandos, and mercenaries from Pakistan and Jordan and other countries to take part in the systematic torture.

I stand before you today to remind you of this young man and of thousands of victims and shattered families, whose regime that is suppressing them is getting support from some of your regimes.
I ask you to send an independent international investigation committee, not funded by the regime and not engrossed by the regime's offerings, to convey to you and to the world the buried truth of what is happening on ground… we are relying on international pressure in order to resolve our case.
I thank you for your patience and interest and leave you with this short reportage that I've prepared, hoping that it will give you a deeper insight into what happened and what is still taking place in Bahrain.

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