Bahrain: Charges brought against Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh arbitrarily detained and sentencing of Ms. Nazeeha Saeed

21/07/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
BHR 003 / 0717 / OBS 076.1

Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Sentencing
Bahrain
July 21, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest, detention and the charges brought against Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh, Monitoring and Documentation Officer at the NGO Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, and the sentencing of Ms. Nazeeha Saeed, France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya’s correspondent in Bahrain, who has been covering pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain and denouncing rights violations committed by police forces during these protests.

According to the information received, on July 18, 2017, Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh was charged under Anti-Terrorism law. The head of Manama’s Prosecution of Terrorist Crimes initiated an investigation into allegations of organising and running an illegal group aiming at preventing state institutions from carrying out their work, initiating attacks on the individuals’ personal freedom and damaging national unity through means of terrorism. Consequently, the Prosecutor ordered a 6 month detention of Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh pending investigation.

Although no specific group name has been mentioned, the authorities portray the group as receiving “gifts from those who work for the benefit of a terrorist organization outside Bahrain to do terrorist acts against the kingdom of Bahrain as well as collecting and giving money to a group practicing terrorist activity”.

On July 16, 2017, Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh, who is being detained in solitary confinement at Isa Town women’s Prison, was seen in an ambulance chair at the Qaala clinic, which is a division of the Ministry of Interior, by fellow detained human rights defender Nabeel Rajab [1]. As of publication of this appeal, her family is still denied access to her, only her husband was able to see her for a few minutes on July 16, 2017, and reported that she was in a wheelchair.

On July 12, 2017, Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh launched a hunger strike to protest torture and maltreatment she was subjected to in the Criminal Investigation Department following her arrest on July 4, 2017 (see background information).

The Observatory expresses its outmost concerns over the arbitrary detention of Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh and fears that she might be at risk of torture while in detention. The Observatory urges Bahraini authorities to guarantee her physical and psychological integrity, to allow her to access her family and lawyer and to immediately and unconditionally release her.

Furthermore, on July 18, 2017, Manama’s Court of Appeals confirmed Ms. Nazeeha Saeed’s 1,000 Bahraini dinars (approx. 2,365 Euros) fine handed down on May 25, 2017 (see background information) for “working without a license”. It has been reported that an appeal with Bahrain’s court of cassation will be filed by the defendant.

The Observatory condemns the sentencing of Ms. Nazeeha Saeed, which only aims at sanctioning her peaceful and legitimate human rights activities and urges Bahraini authorities to overturn the sentence and to put an end to any form of harassment against her.

The Observatory recalls that both women human rights defenders had recently been facing increased acts of harassment alongside several other human rights defenders [2]. Indeed, in May 2017, Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh was previously held, tortured and sexually assaulted by the NSA at Muharraq police station, where she was being detained in connection with her human rights activities.

Background information:

In 2011, Ms. Nazeeha Saeed was held in custody in 2011 and tortured.

On May 25, 2017, the Second Lower Criminal Court handed down a 1,000 Bahraini dinars (approx. 2,365 Euros) fine against journalist Ms. Nazeeha Saeed, for “working without a license”. Ms. Saeed, whose application to renew her license has been rejected without any basis at the end of March 2016, was summoned for interrogation and charged with “unlawfully working for an international media” under Article 88 of Law 47/2002 on July 17, 2016.

In April 2017, Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh, who together with 22 other human rights defenders, was subjected to a travel ban and falsely accused of participating in “illegal gatherings” in the city of Duraz [3], is also the target of a defamation campaign conducted by the pro-government newspaper Al-Ayam, which accused her of fabricating reports on human rights violations in Bahrain.

On May 15, 2017, Mrs. Al-Saegh’s car was burnt.

On May 27, 2017, Mrs. Al-Saegh, was summoned by the NSA to Muharraq police station. She was released seven hours later and was immediately taken to the hospital in a very concerning psychological state, following a “severe nervous breakdown”. Upon her release, Mrs. Al-Saegh reported having suffered acts of torture, including severe beatings on the head, sexual abuse and was insulted threatened to be raped if she continued her human rights work. NSA agents also threatened to target her family members. According to reliable reports, she was also forced to repeat the royal anthem and beaten and insulted when failed to do so properly. During her interrogation, she was asked about the work of activists inside and outside Bahrain, including in Geneva during sessions of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC).

On July 4, 2017, at approximatively 12:45am, armed, masked and plain clothed officers from the Bahrain security forces raided Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh’s home and arrested her without any warrant. It is feared that the security forces officers might belong to the National Security Agency (NSA).

Following her arrest, Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh was briefly seen by detainees in the morning of July 4, 2017, at the Isa Town women’s prison visibly in poor physical conditions before being taken away to an undisclosed location. Detainees who could see Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh reported that she may have been beaten.

Although her whereabouts were not immediately disclosed to her family, on July 4, 2017, at around 9pm, Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh called her family from Isa Town women’s prison, where she was being detained in solitary confinement outside of interrogation hours. She reported being interrogated for long hours under tough circumstances and being forced to sign on false confessions. She also reported being sent to the Ministry of Interior’s clinic in Al Qaalaa, where she was diagnosed with low blood pressure.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Bahrain, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh and Ms. Nazeeha Saeed, as well as of all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh, as well as all detained human rights defenders in Bahrain as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Drop all the charges against Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh and immediately allow her to access her family and lawyers and guarantee her right to due process and a fair trial;

iv. Order an immediate, thorough, transparent, effective and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture, ill-treatment, and physical and psychological pressure of Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh by security agents during her interrogation in May 2017 in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and apply the sanctions provided by the law to them;

v. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh, Ms. Nazeeha Saeed and all human rights defenders in Bahrain, so that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;

vi. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(b), and 12.2;

vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Addresses:

• Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587
• Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax : 00973 17 21 05 75; ofd@mofa.gov.bh
• Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Fax: +973 175 31 284
• Lt. Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla AL KHALIFA, Minister of Interior, Email: info@interior.gov.bh
• H.E. Mr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch
• H.E. Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Belgium, Fax: 0032 (0) 26472274; E-mail: Brussels.mission@mofa.gov.bh

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Bahrain in your respective country.

***
Paris-Geneva, July 21, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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