Bahrain: Women Human Rights Defender remains in detention
Photo Credit: via Bahrain Center for Human Rights
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Bahraini women human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh was removed from solitary confinement following a two-day hunger strike in protest at her conditions of detention. She is a prisoner of conscience. The authorities have undertaken to carry out an investigation into her allegations of torture and sexual assault during her May detention.
On 15 August, women’s rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh was removed from solitary confinement. This followed a two-day second hunger strike in protest at being detained in solitary confinement in a cell usually reserved for very ill detainees at Isa Town Detention for women, in the Bahraini capital Manama. Ebtisam al-Saegh is now allowed daily calls to her family and weekly visits. She is also being taken for regular medical check-ups. On 24 August, the National Security Agency (NSA) Ombudsman informed her husband of his office’s ongoing investigation in relation to her allegations of ill-treatment and sexual assault circulating in the media.
On 3 July, Ebtisam al-Saegh was arrested after tweeting about female detainees who were victims of abuse at Isa Town detention centre for women. She was interrogated at an undisclosed location outside the detention facilities, believed to be the NSA building in al-Muharraq, and later held in solitary confinement at the women prison. She had no access to her family or a lawyer during interrogation despite multiple requests. On 18 July, in the presence of a lawyer, the Terrorism Crimes Prosecution charged Ebtisam al-Saegh 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 completion of the investigation.
On 23 July, a forensic doctor diagnosed Ebtisam al-Saegh with a fracture around her left hand and a broken rib dating back to her 26 May 2017 detention and torture which included sexual assault. Amnesty International believes that her arrest relates to her human rights work.
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* Start with a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.
* Demand the authorities release Ebtisam al-Saegh immediately and unconditionally as she is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and her human rights work.
* Welcome the NSA Ombudsman’s investigation into Ebtisam al-Saegh’s allegations of torture and sexual assault during her detention in May, and seek guarantees that it will be impartial, independent and effective. Anyone who is reasonably suspected of responsibility must be prosecuted in proceedings which meet international standards of fair trial.
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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: email@example.com (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,
Fax: 011 973 1723 2661
Salutation: Your Excellency
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Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
P. O. Box 450, al-Manama,
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
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.
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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