7 Oct 2014

Bahrain prince ‘not immune’ over torture claims

The high court declares the king of Bahrain’s son does not have immunity from prosecution for torture, after the DPP conceded she was wrong not to pursue the case on immunity grounds.

Scotland Yard’s war crimes unit is to be asked to launch an investigation into allegations that Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Kalifia, who is a regular visitor to the UK, was involved in the torture of political prisoners in Bahrain during the human rights demonstrations in 2011.

A survivor, known only as FF, challenged the DPP’s decision taken around the time of the Olympic Games, when the prince was in London as chair of Bahrain’s Olympic committee.

Risk of investigation

Following today’s ruling FF, who claims he was badly beaten and detained without charge, said: “Now the prince has lost his immunity, he will need to consider the risk of investigation, arrest and prosecution when he is travelling outside Bahrain.”

His solicitor, Sue Wilman, said: “The UK has a duty under the convention against torture to investigate and arrest those alleged to have committed acts of torture, regardless of the UK’s economic interests.”

In 2011 the king of Bahrain declared a state of emergency in the face of widespread pro-democracy demonstrations where its leaders, according an investigation by a team of international experts, were beaten, kicked and flogged while detained in prison.

The high court was told today there has been no response from the Bahraini royal family during the case, but a spokesman for Prince Nasser said he categorically denies any involvement in alleged torture.

‘Inappropriate statement’

Bahrain’s government issued a statement in response to the ruling. It said:

“As the British DPP has today affirmed, an arrest would have been improper given the absence of evidence of the conduct alleged. As Bahrain has never sought anonymity or sovereign immunity from the English courts for anyone in respect of this case, it expresses no view on the DPP’s statement that immunity was inappropriate.

“This has been an ill-targeted, politically-motivated and opportunistic attempt to misuse the British legal system.

“Contrary to assertions being made in the wake of today’s hearing, the court order does not open the door to a prosecution.”