failure to hold accountable those who tortured her

(As received)- 10 Jan 2013

Bahraini journalist Nazeeha Saeed today filed a letter of allegation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, asking them to urgently investigate her mistreatment and the failure of the Bahraini government to conduct an impartial investigation into her abuse and hold accountable those police officers responsible for it. The letter was filed with the assistance of the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) and international law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.

Having reported on pro-democracy demonstrations held at Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout in the spring of 2011, Ms Saeed was called into a Bahraini police station for questioning. There, she was blindfolded, kicked, punched, and slapped. Her hair was pulled, she was whipped with plastic tubing, had a shoe forced into her mouth and her head dunked into a toilet. An unknown, caustic liquid said to be urine was poured onto her face, she was repeatedly insulted and mentally abused and asked to make a false confession. Three independent medical reports, two of which were from Bahraini government doctors, corroborate Ms Saeed’s account of the torture she suffered while in custody.

While it initially seemed that the Bahraini authorities were investigating Ms Saeed’s complaint about her mistreatment by the police in earnest, the actual steps undertaken to bring those who assaulted here were grossly insufficient. While Ms Saeed was able to identify 5 of her attackers, only one female police officer, Sara al-Moosa, was prosecuted. The trial was repeatedly delayed and resulted in the acquittal of the policewoman in October 2012. The Court’s reasoning for the acquittal, including that the medical reports allegedly do not support Ms Nazeeha’s claims of torture, has no factual basis in the evidence.

An appeal was formally launched, but the Prosecution has made no effort to convince the Court that the court of first instance had erred in its acquittal of Ms al-Moosa. The case is now scheduled for judgment in February, but Ms Saeed holds little hope for a fair outcome. She therefore has turned to the UN Special Rapporteurs in the hope that they might help persuade the Bahraini authorities to handle her case justly and fairly.

The appeal to the Special Rapporteurs calls on Mr Frank La Rue and Ms Gabriela Knaul to: · urgently investigate and raise with the government of Bahrain the mistreatment of Ms Saeed; · investigate and raise with the government of Bahrain its failure to conduct an impartial investigation into Ms Saeed’s abuse; · investigate and raise with the government of Bahrain its failure to hold accountable those police officers responsible for Ms Saeed’s abuse.

“The manner in which the Bahraini authorities have handled Ms Saeed’s case so far falls short by any standard,” said Nani Jansen, MLDI’s Senior Legal Counsel. “The failure to hold those responsible for her abuse to account contributes to the culture of impunity in the country. It is therefore not only important that Ms. Nazeeha’s individual case be properly investigated and prosecuted, but also that a strong signal is sent that the abuse of journalists in general will not be condoned.”

*** Contact details:

Media Legal Defence Initiative E. Nani Jansen, Senior Legal Counsel T. +442073244675