Stories from Bahrain’s Crackdown: Ali Jasim Al Ghanmi, Bahraini Police Officer
Widespread public protests calling for democratic reform in Bahrain began in February 2011. By mid-March 2011, the Bahrain government had begun a violent crackdown on the protestors and those it imagined had been its leaders. Journalists, human rights activists and medics were arrested in the following weeks. Many still remain in jail today, convicted on the basis of confessions forced under torture.
When Ali Jasim Al Ghanmi , a 26-year-old policeman, husband, and father, heard that protestors were shot by security forces on February 17, 2011, he immediately went to Salmaniya Medical Complex to help the medics there treat those who had been wounded. After seeing the effects of the violence firsthand, he left his guard post while still in uniform to join the protesters and announced that he could no longer support the regime. The crowd hoisted him on their shoulders and Al Ghanmi became an overnight hero of the protest movement.
In the month that followed, Al Ghanmi criticized Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain, at a series of rallies.
In March 2011, the government of Bahrain brought Gulf Co-operation Council into the country to help quash the protests at the Pearl Roundabout. Al Ghanmi went into hiding to avoid the crackdown. His family alleges that they were threatened in an effort to make them reveal his whereabouts.
The police found and arrested Al Ghanmi on May 4th. He was subjected to torture; he reports being doused with water while naked in a room with the air conditioning on high, beaten with hands and sticks while blindfolded, and denied food, water, and access to the toilet for more than two days. From September 2011 to January 2012, Al Ghanmi was held in solitary confinement, allegedly for shouting "Down, down, Hamad" in the prison yard. In December 2011, Al Ghanmi's lawyer said that he had been subject to insults, abuse, and beatings by prison guards.
On January 9th, 2012, Al Ghanmi was sentenced to over twelve years' imprisonment by a military court for having defected from the police on various grounds: two years for "disturbing the peace," three years for "incitement to hatred against the government," and seven and a half years for being absent without leave and his participation in the rallies. He’s in prison, serving out his sentence.
The brutal actions of the police and other security forces during the crackdown have been documented in reports from Human Rights First, other leading national and international human rights organization, and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). The BICI found that Public Security Forces (PSF) “units involved in the events of February/March 2011 violated the principles of necessity and proportionality. This is evident in both the choice of weapons that were used by these forces during confrontations with civilians and the manner in which these weapons were used.”
But Al Ghanmi along with an unknown number of security forces, have courageously refused to join the crackdown, choosing to follow their consciences instead of illegal, immoral orders. They have everything to lose when they side with pro-democracy protestors, both their livelihoods and their freedom. The regime, by all accounts, has punished them ruthlessly.
This week Human Rights First received reports that Al Ghanmi has been returned to prison from the hospital after receiving treatment for beatings from guards. Bahrain is an increasingly volatile state, and its violent crackdown continues today with people like Al Ghanmi facing cruel treatment in overcrowded prisons, serving time on bogus charges.