New ruling means status does not provide safety from torture prosecution

Last week a British court published a ruling that could provide justice for victims of torture not just in Bahrain but also across the world.

Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa

Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa

The ruling, denying immunity to Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, means the prince could face arrest in the UK for his role in the torture of pro-democracy protestors.

Backed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the decision annuls the prince’s claims of immunity under the State Immunity Act (1978).

The case against the prince, brought to court by an anonymous torture survivor known only as FF, alleges the prince was directly involved in the torture of a group of detained prisoners during the pro-democracy protests in 2011.

FF claims he was beaten and imprisoned for joining the protests. So far, no members of the authorities face prosecution for their role in the ill-treatment, torture and death of dozens of protestors.

In July 2012, a dossier contained evidence that the prince had personally tortured protestors, yet no charges of torture emerged despite the prince regularly visiting the UK.

This ruling gives hope not only to FF, but also to fellow torture survivors who seek prosecution of some of the highest-ranked state figures.

In a press release, FF says the ruling should prompt Britain to “review its policy of co-operation and support for the Bahrain regime.”

Seeking justice is an important step in the rehabilitation of a torture survivor and many survivors of torture view justice proceedings as an integral part of their recovery. Prosecutions and public condemnation of torture also helps prevent the practice and brings to the surface the trauma that torture survivors face.

Also, this ruling shows that perpetrators of torture, no matter who they are, cannot hide forever. Regardless of social class, the message is that torture is a crime and, as with all crimes, there is an expectation of punishment for the perpetrators. No one is, or should be, immune from prosecution for the crime of torture.

Let us hope similar rulings continue to emerge to reiterate that torture and impunity must end.

 

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