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Bahrain: Drop charges against women human rights defender

    Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - 16:30

    Photo Credit: via Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    Download PDF of most recent update to UA 165/17 Bahrain

    Bahraini woman human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh was released from Isa Town Detention for women, in the Bahraini capital Manama on 22 October. She has yet to receive the conditions of her release or information about her trial. As such, she remains at risk of detention.

    On the evening of 22 October, human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh was released from Isa Town Detention for women, in the Bahraini capital Manama. On the afternoon of the same day, she found out about her release order. An hour later, state security officers conducted a thorough search of Ebtisam al Saegh’s cell and confiscated all her documents, including her medical files and notes on the situation in the prison. The state security officers eventually agreed to only retain a copy of Ebtisam al-Saegh’s medical files after she successfully argued she needed them in order to follow up on her health. Meanwhile a highly ranked female prison officer threatened to block Ebtisam al-Saegh’s release and told her that she would be returning to the prison as a convict and to prepare for what was to come regardless of Tweets, protests and the pressure of human rights organizations. Ebtisam al-Saegh and her lawyer have yet to receive the casefile from the court and have not been informed about the conditions of her release. No new date for her trial has been announced yet. Ebtisam al-Saegh remains at risk of being re-arrested.

    On 18 July Ebtisam al-Saegh was charged by the Terrorism Crimes Prosecution with “using human rights work as a cover to communicate and cooperate with Alkarama Foundation to provide them with information and fake news about the situation in Bahrain to undermine its status abroad”. Ebtisam al-Saegh’s detention was extended for a further six months pending investigation on the same day.

    Following her release Ebtisam al-Saegh thanked Amnesty International and all supporters for their efforts on her behalf. She said: “I was aware of your support and this brought me joy and a feeling of safety which is so important for all prisoners”.

    Please send a letter and/or email without delay.

    * Start with a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.

    * Call on the authorities to drop all the charges against Ebtisam al Saegh since they are related solely to the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and her human rights work.

    * Urge them to uphold the right to freedom of expression and repeal laws that criminalize the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, including Article 216 of the Penal Code.

     

    Address your messages to:

    King

    Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa

    Office of His Majesty the King

    P.O. Box 555

    Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain

    Email via Ministry of Foreign Affairs: contactus@mofa.gov.bh (Mark attention of the King)

    Fax: 011 973 1766 4587

    Salutation: Your Majesty

     

    Minister of Interior

    Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa

    Ministry of Interior

    P.O. Box 13, al-Manama,

    Bahrain

    Fax: 011 973 1723 2661

    Salutation: Your Excellency

     

    Please send a copy to:

     

    Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs

    Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa

    Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs

    P. O. Box 450, al-Manama,

    Bahrain

    Send a message via website: http://www.moj.gov.bh/en/default76a7.html?action=category&ID=159

    Fax: 011 973 1753 1284

     

    His Excellency Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Khalifa

    Ambassador for the Kingdom of Bahrain

    3502 International Drive NW

    Washington, DC 20008, USA

    Email: ambsecretary@bahrainembassy.org

    Fax: 1 202 362 2192

    Send a message via website: www.bahrainembassy.org

    Click on CONTACT and scroll to the bottom. You can send emails via the site directly to specific positions within the Embassy. Choose Legal & Human Rights Directorate and enter your message.

    Additional Information:

    Ebtisam al-Saegh, 48, is a Bahraini human rights defender who works with the Bahraini NGO Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR). She was arrested on 3 July at 11:45pm after around 25 masked officers in civilian clothing, who claimed to belong to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), raided her house in Jid Ali, south of Manama. They did not present a warrant for her arrest. The officers confiscated her mobile phone and her national ID card and led her away. She was allowed to take her medication with her. Earlier that day, Ebtisam al-Saegh had tweeted about the National Security Agency (NSA)’s ill-treatment of women, the abuse of female detainees in Isa Town detention centre for women, and held the King of Bahrain responsible for their actions.

    On 10 July in the evening, during interrogation, Ebtisam al-Saegh’s health deteriorated. She suffered from irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), numbness in the left hand, a drop in her blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and bloating of the stomach due to her IBS condition. She was taken for treatment to the Ministry of Interior hospital in al-Qalaa. Medical staff performed an electrocardiogram (ECG) and gave her intravenous fluids including glucose to raise her blood sugar levels, before discharging her. She was then again taken away for the continuation of her interrogation. Amnesty International understands that Ebtisam al-Saegh has been interrogated by authorities believed to be from the NSA for between 12 to 13 hours daily at an unknown location. She was returned after every interrogation session to Isa Town detention centre for women where she is held in solitary confinement.

    A few weeks earlier, on 26 May, National Security Agency (NSA) authorities had interrogated Ebtisam al-Saegh at their building in al-Muharraq. She told Amnesty International that when she arrived there, they immediately blindfolded her, and in the subsequent hours, sexually assaulted her, beat her all over her body, kicked her in the stomach and kept her standing for most of the seven hours she was being interrogated. During her interrogation, they questioned Ebtisam al-Saegh about Duraz, where security forces attacked an ongoing protest on 23 May killing five people, and about other human rights defenders she knew, as well as about her participation at the UN Human rights Council in Geneva in March, where she spoke out about violations in Bahrain. They also told her to stop all her human rights activities or else she would be further targeted. The NSA released Ebtisam al-Saegh from their building at around 11pm in a state of shock. She was transferred to hospital where she received treatment for a nervous breakdown. For further information, see Amnesty International’s Public Statement: Woman Human Rights Defender tortured and sexually assaulted as Bahrain renews campaign to silence peaceful critics, 31 May 2017.

    Since June 2016, the Bahraini authorities have intensified their crackdown on perceived critics of the government. Dozens of human rights defenders and political activists were prevented and banned by the Bahraini authorities from travelling to Geneva, Switzerland, to take part in the United Nations Human Rights Council sessions. More recently, at the end of April, ahead of Bahrain’s UN human rights review session in Geneva on 1 May, at least 32 perceived government critics were summoned for questioning by the Public Prosecution and the majority of them were charged with “illegal gathering in Duraz”.

    Alkarama Foundation is a non-governmental organization based in Switzerland, defending individuals subjected to human rights violations in the Arab world. In November 2014, the United Arab Emirates published a list of organizations and groups it designated as terrorist, among them the foundation.

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