Bahrain: Women’s rights activist arrested and risks torture
As she was getting ready for bed on 3 July, Bahraini women’s rights defender Ebtisam Al-Sayegh was arrested by masked officers. Her whereabouts remain unknown.
Just before midnight, five civilian cars and one minibus arrived at Al-Sayegh’s home. Two female officers demanded she handed over both her mobile phone and her national identity card. No arrest warrant was presented and the officers did not answer questions from her family on why she was being arrested. Her family believe these officers are from the Bahraini National Security Agency.
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Urgent Appeal: Unlawful Detention of WHRD Ebtisam Al-Saegh
Dear Special Rapporteur,
Dear Assistant Secretary-General,
On 3 July at approximately 11:45 PM Bahraini security forces raided the home of prominent WHRD Ebtisam Al-Saegh and arrested her. Ebtisam Al-Saegh is currently affiliated to SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR) and is well-known for her cooperation with the United Nations mechanisms in exposing human rights violations in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
According to reports from the ground, the Bahraini security forces descended on her house from five civilian cars and a bus. Her family received no explanations as to the reasons behind her arrest, nor have they heard from Ebtisam Al-Saegh on her current whereabouts since then. She is believed to have been detained in Isa Town women’s prison and transferred by the Bahraini National Security Agency (NSA) in an unknown location in the morning of July 4. She is at high risk of torture and sexual violence due to her human rights work. Inmates from Isa prison who are normally allowed out of their cells in the morning have not been allowed to today, allegedly because of Ebtisam Al-Saegh’s presence in the prison and torture and ill-treatment she might be facing.
This is the second time that Ebtisam Al-Saegh is arrested this year. On 26 May, Ebtisam Al-Saegh was summoned by the Bahraini National Security Agency (NSA) to be interrogated in Muharraq. She later revealed that during her seven-hour interrogation, she was sexually and physically abused by her interrogators, beaten all over her body, kicked in the head and stomach. They subjected her to verbal abuse, groping of breasts and rape. The interrogators also threatened her with the safety of her husband and children if she did not quit her human rights activism and her association with the SALAM organization.
During the interrogation, she was asked to disclose information about other Bahraini human rights activists, both in Bahrain and abroad; additionally, she was interrogated on her participation at the UN Human Rights Council 34th session in March 2017. Following the interrogation, Al-Saegh was immediately hospitalized in a state of shock.
Bahrain has a long record of stifling dissent by targeting activists, such as harassments, beatings, arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and torture in detention, unlawful detentions and intrusive surveillance.
While these patterns of repression are well documented, little attention has been paid to the toll of this repression on women activists. Women involved in advocacy campaigns or public event at the UN such as Ebtisam Al-Saegh have been particularly targeted and face an array of abusive practices their male colleagues are less likely to have to contend with – from sexual violence to imposing humiliating positions or questioning during interrogations. Ebtisam Al-Saegh, in addition to being blindfolded as her male colleagues, reported that the officers held her legs open during most of her interrogation and sexually abused her.
According to a recent investigation by BCHR submitted to the CAT, sexual violence and sexual harassment are routinely being used to torture women into confessing to crimes in Bahrain.
As you highlighted in a joint statement, when women like Ebtisam Al-Saegh are tortured or ill-treated, they are specifically at risk of forms of violence that target them because of their gender.
We respectfully urge you to issue an urgent and public communication to the Bahraini authorities concerning the particular risk faced by Ebtisam Al-Saegh to be subjected to further torture and sexual abuses. It will greatly help raising her profile of women rights defender, calling attention to the particular risk she faces, and ensuring she receives appropriate remedies.
Human Rights Defender Ebtesam al-Saegh Lawlessly Detained for Second Time in as Many Months; Grave Fears of Renewed Torture
At approximately 11:45 p.m. local time in Bahrain, on the night of 3–4 July, long-time human rights defender Ebtesam al-Saegh was detained by state security for the second time in as many months. When Ms. al-Saegh was last detained in the final days of May, the officers torturing her – using physical violence, sexual abuse, and threats to murder her and her children – openly told her they were from Bahrain’s notorious National Security Agency (NSA), and were equally open about the fact that they were torturing her precisely because she was a human rights defender.
Ms. al-Saegh has been a vital advocate for human rights in Bahrain at a time when voicing such opinions inside the country has become extraordinarily dangerous. She has been one of the few people left willing to speak openly on behalf of human rights in Bahrain, and has done so persistently and courageously at increasingly steep personal cost.
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Ebtisem Al-Saegh Arrested, at Risk of Torture
At approximately 11:45pm on 3 July, Bahrain security forces arrested without warrant WHRD Ebtisam Al-Saegh following a raid on her home. In May 2017, Al-Saegh was detained, sexually assaulted and tortured at the National Security Agency in Muharraq, where her family believe she is now being held.
Five civilian cars and a bus arrived at the defender's home, following which masked officers in plainclothes raided the house and arrested her without presenting a warrant. Her family reported that all those raiding the home were wearing masks, body cameras, and weapons.
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Women Rights Activist Ebtisam Al-Sayegh Arrested by NSA, Serious Risk of Torture
4 July 2017 – Police have arrested woman Human Rights Defender Ebtisam Al-Sayegh, 48, in a midnight raid on her home. She is believed to be detained by the National Security Agency, and is at high risk of torture. Al-Sayegh was tortured at the NSA building in Muharraq in May. The NSA is the cite of many recent torture allegations and is headed by Sheikh Talal Al Khalifa, a Bahraini royal and Sandhurst graduate.
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Bahraini Alleged Torture Victim Arrested-Rights Group
A Bahraini activist was arrested at her home late on Monday by masked and armed state security officers, a month after she complained of being tortured and sexually assaulted when she was summoned for questioning, a London-based rights group said.
Western-allied Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, has stepped up a crackdown on critics, shutting down two main political groups, revoking the citizenship of a Shi'ite Muslim spiritual leader and jailing rights campaigners.
Officers believed to be from the National Security Agency (NSA) surrounded Ebtisam al-Sayegh's home and arrested her, the London-based Bahrain Centre for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said.
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Ending reprisals against those who cooperate with the United Nations in the field of human rights
In April 2017, two situations occured that prevented civil society from participating in human rights discussions in the context of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Bahrain scheduled for May 2017 in Geneva. The first incident took place ahead of the UPR Pre-session of Bahrain organised by UPR Info on 6 April 2016. A human rights and civil rights defender from Bahrain, Sayed Hadi Hasan Mohamed Al Musawi, was prevented from speaking at the Pre-session in Geneva. When he attempted to board a plane to Geneva at Manama airport on the morning of 5 April, he was informed that he would not be permitted to travel.
The other incident arose prior to the UPR of Bahrain, where 27 Bahraini individuals, including Nedal Al-Salma, Head of Women and Children Rights at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, were summoned for questioning by the Bahraini Office for Public Prosecution and, while investigations were ongoing, were placed under a travel ban.
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Statement of Solidarity in Support of MENA HRDs for IFEX25
We, the human rights defenders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), along with other colleagues gathered at the IFEX25 Strategy Conference & General Meeting in Montreal, Canada, from 12 to 16 June 2017, declare our full solidarity with human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in various countries of the MENA region detained for their peaceful and legitimate activities defending and promoting freedom of expression, and we call for their immediate release.
We express our deep concern about the authorities' use of travel bans and arbitrary detention as tools for reprisals against the reliable work of our colleagues in the region, including:
• Gamal Eid, director of IFEX member the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), prevented from attending the IFEX25 with his colleagues in Montreal by a travel ban in place since February 2016 due to this work on freedom of expression and other human rights in Egypt;
• Mohammed Zaree, director of the Cairo office of IFEX member the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), prevented from attending the IFEX25 with his colleagues in Montreal by a travel ban in place since June 2016 due to his work on freedom of expression and other human rights in Egypt;
• Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, co-founders of both IFEX members Bahrain Center for Human Rights(BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), prevented from attending the IFEX25 with their colleagues in Montreal as they remain detained as political prisoners in Bahrain due to exercising their right to freedom of expression in their work on defending human rights;
• Nedal Al-Salman, Head of International Relations for IFEX member BCHR, and IFEX Council member, prevented from attending the IFEX25 with her colleagues in Montreal by a travel ban in place due to exercising her right to freedom of expression in Bahrain as well as international spaces, including the UN Human Rights Council; and
• Ahmed Mansoor, member of the GCHR advisory board, prevented from attending the IFEX25 with his colleagues in Montreal as he remains arbitrarily detained in the UAE since 20 March 2017 on charges that violate his right to freedom of expression.
We believe that the only objective of these arbitrary actions is to isolate civil society organisations and their members from communicating with their peers and international mechanisms in order to cover up the massive violations of civil and human rights by the authorities.
It was noted during IFEX25 that the close relationship between the governments of the MENA region and the UK and the US has led to the emboldening of security services in the region who continue to carry out gross violations of human rights around the clock without consequence. While we hold the governments of the region responsible for the deterioration of the human rights situation in the region, we call on international mechanisms, especially the United Nations, the EU and governments that have influence in our region to place human rights first in their diplomatic relationships and foreign policy. They must also protect and support human rights defenders as they carry out their important work aimed at building free, independent and prosperous societies dominated by social justice where there is no place for repression, discrimination and withholding of public freedoms.
The undersigned members of IFEX urge the governments of the region to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally release IFEX members Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Ahmed Mansoor, and all other prisoners of conscience;
2. Abolish the travel ban imposed on our colleagues Gamal Eid, Mohammed Zaree, and Nedal Al-Salman, and stop retaliation against all human rights advocates for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly;
3. Ensure the physical and psychological integrity and security of all detained human rights defenders and grant them their legitimate and unrestricted right to meet with their families and lawyers; and
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the region are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
Bahrain: IFJ condemns closure of Al Wasat newspaper and calls on the Bahraini government to stop intimidating independent journalists
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the refusal of Bahraini government to lift a ban on Al Wasat newspaper which led to its closure this week.
The Association also stressed that “its doors are open to any journalist who wants to have any legal opinion or an appointment with a lawyer, and for journalists to be paid all the end of service entitlements according to the labour laws in the Kingdom of Bahrain“.
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Bahrain should free human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, urges DROI Chair
Speaking on behalf of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, the Chair of the Subcommittee, Mr Pier Antonio Panzeri, stated: “Nabeel Rajab’s detention violates his right to freedom of expression. I call on the Bahraini authorities to grant lawyers and family members access to Nabeel Rajab, to drop all charges against him and to free him immediately.”
Read the statement here.