Bahrain / Torture : Today’s UK court decision reveals France’s failure to investigate torture allegations against Bahraini prince

Paris, Berlin, 7 October 2014 – The lawsuit brought against the Prince Nasser Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, son of the King of Bahrain, for acts of torture have just experienced a major breakthrough in the United Kingdom (UK) with the abandonment of the argument of immunity. FIDH, LDH (the Ligue des droits de l’Homme) and ECCHR (European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights) welcome this major step forward and denounce vigorously French authorities failure to respond to a similar complaint filed in France on 22 August.

« French authorities should take example on the decision rendered today by London’s High Court and lift Prince Nasser’s immunity », declared our organisations. « France should not hide behind diplomatic loopholes. Thorough and detailed investigations are necessary in Britain as in any country where the Prince would travel to in the future. »

On 22 August, alerted by the stay in France of Mister Al Khalifa, who came as a member of the Bahraini team to participate in the World Equestrian Games in Normandie, FIDH and LDH had filed a complaint for crimes of torture before the Prosecutor of the French Special Unit on Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes within the Paris Tribunal.

This complaint, based on circumstancial information from reliable sources, personnally implicates Prince Nasser Ahmad Al Khalifa in acts of torture against Bahraini opposants in 2011 as part of the crackdown on popular protests commonly referred to as the Pearl Spring in Bahrain.

The preliminary investigation ordered by the Paris Prosecutor confirmed the presence of Prince Nasser Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa on French territory, thus justifying the jurisdiction of French judiciary to investigate this case. However, on 29 August, the preliminary investigation was suddenly dismissed, following a notice granting immunity to Prince Nasser issued by the Protocol Department of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Yet, on the one hand this notice was based on an international convention not ratified by France and presented in a new and surprising manner as being part of customary international law. On the other hand, it contradicted a letter by the same department sent the same day to FIDH stating that the Prince was on a private visit and thus did not benefit from immunity.

« This decision is purely political and doesn’t do honour to France, which can’t go on hiding behind supposed imunity rules only to avoid assuming its international legal obligations. These are to pursue and judge when it doesn’t extradite, suspects of torture present on French territory » declared our organisations.

FIDH and LDH launched an appeal with the General Prosecutor of the Paris Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile, on 7 October 2014, the High Court of London rules in an administrative judicial review case brought by a Bahraini torture survivor and with ECCHR as interested party, that Prince Nasser is not entitled to immunity. The Crown Prosecution Service had argued, when reviewing two dossiers containing information about torture and persecution allegations submitted by ECCHR in July 2012, that Prince Nasser was entitled to immunity. Following this decision, the Metropolitan Police had suspended its investigations. The new decision opens the way for further investigations in the UK.

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