On 7th July, a video was posted on YouTube that shows the Prime Minister of Bahrain, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, meeting with police officer Mubarak bin Huwail. The visit took place on 1st July – the same day the Third High Criminal Court acquitted Huwail of torturing six medics. The meeting, which was attended by a number of people (including several from Saudi Arabia), offers an important insight into the lack of accountability faced by Bahrain’s security forces. In it, the Prime Minister thanks Mubarak bin Huwail for his ‘good work’, and also tells those gathered that they are above the law. The exact quotes, along with their translation, are as follows:
(0.24) Prime Minister to member(s) of the group – هالقوانين محد يطبقها عليكم ، إلا علاقتنا وياكم ، وإلي يطبق عليكم يطبق علينا إحنا. إحنا جسد واحد
Translation: These laws cannot be applied to you. No one can touch this bond. Whoever applies these laws against you is applying them against us. We are one body.
(2.28) – PM to Mubarak bin Huwail – نا ياي أشكركم يا مبارك على صبرك وعلى عملك الطيب والإنسان مثل ماتقول ينطرح عمله وعملكم كلكم يا هالعايلة هو سبب سمعتكم إلى مافي أحسن منها ومايبقى عند الإنسان في حياته وعقب ما الله يختاره إلا سمعته وسمعتكم كبيرة وعايلتكم كبيرة وإحنا أهلكم
Translation: I am here to thank you, Mubarak, for your patience and good work. A human as they say is judged by his work, and your work as a family is the reason for your reputation which is exemplary. A human is left with nothing but his reputation in life and death, and yours is a great one as a family. We are one family.
This video is extremely concerning. Although it is not exactly clear what the Prime Minister is discussing, he does appear to be making a mockery of the rule of law by implying that those present are above the law. It is also worth mentioning the irony of the situation, as it was the Prime Minster who said in March 2013 that ‘all citizens are equal before the law’. Clearly this is not the case.
The video also offers an important clue as to why Bahrain’s justice system has failed to find any state employees guilty of torture or murder, even though a year and a half has elapsed since the release of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report. While the BICI report noted that abuses perpetrated by the security forces “could not have happened without the knowledge of higher echelons of the command structure”, this video offers an important and rare insight into why this culture of impunity exists. The evidence suggests that the lack of accountability among Bahrain’s security forces is a systemic problem that goes beyond the command structure and judiciary to the very heart of government itself. Such evidence warrants further investigation, and should not be ignored by Bahrain’s allies or the international community.