(Paris, France, July 23, 2017)
*Who is Ebtisam Alsaegh?
Ebtisam Alsaegh is a Bahraini human rights defender working in SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, a non-governmental organization registered in the United Kingdom.
On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, the Prosecution of Terrorist Crimes in Bahrain ordered the detention of human rights Ebtisam Alsaegh for 6 months pending investigation on charges related to terrorism, while a group of UN experts expressed concern about the arbitrary detention of Alsaegh, amid reports that she was subjected to “torture and sexual abuse”.
The Un experts said “Alsaegh was deprived of her fundamental right to due process from the moment of her arrest to this day,” expressing “grave concern over the information that her health has deteriorated dramatically in the last few days”.
In the context of the monitoring carried by Bahraini human rights organizations and their follow-up of the legal status of Alsaegh held by the Bahraini authorities since the dawn of the 4th of July 2017, we have received with great concern the contact of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab with his family, in which he stated that he witnessed HRD Alsaegh in the Ministry of Interior Hospital in Bahrain’s capital city on a wheelchair.
His son Adam Nabeel Rajab said on his personal account on “Twitter” that his father was worried about his colleague Alsaegh, and confirmed that his father Rajab did not recognize her at first, until she called him “Nabeel, Nabeel, I am Ebtisam Alsaegh”, specially that he was unaware of her arrest and detention. He asked his son, “What brought Ebtisam here? Did she have a car accident?”. He reported that Alsaegh looked so tired and that she was under anesthesia.
Sources close to her family reported that Alsaegh was seen several times in the women’s detention prison in the southeastern city of Isa Town in poor condition due to torture and ill-treatment.
Moreover, reliable sources said she is kept in solitary confinement, full of insects and dirt, and that she told the female prisoners that she has been subjected to torture and huge pressure and is forced to make confessions that are not related to her human rights work when constantly transferred to the General Investigation Directorate CID by individuals belonging to the National Security Apparatus NSA.
It is worth mentioning that the National Security Apparatus is interrogating her for extended hours of up to 12 hours a day.
The organizations participating in the drafting and writing of this report believe that these practices of the National Security Apparatus against member of SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights Ebtisam Alsaegh are security methods that are always used to suppress the freedom of opinion and expression in Bahrain.
These methodological procedures are based on illegal bases and rules. Alsaegh is subjected to torture, ill-treatment and prolonged interrogation. These are security measures to quarantine the work of civil society organizations and human rights defenders who seek through the United Nations mechanisms to deliver outstanding human rights files that need an immediate solution, which have negative repercussions on the reality of human rights in Bahrain.
As part of the security crackdown on the human rights defender, Ebtisam Alsaegh and other activists, in May of this year, went in for investigation for seven hours in the security compound of the National Security Apparatus in Muharraq city. She reported that she was severely beaten and sexually harassed in order to force her to freeze her activities and work in the field of human rights and announce it through social networks such as Twitter.
Bahraini Embassy in Britain issued a statement published on its official account on the social network “Twitter” on “allegations related to the case of Ebtisam Alsaegh,” the statement issued on July 14, 2017 said that Alsaegh is “currently detained and is facing serious terrorism charges, links with terrorist organizations and known terrorist cells,” adding that “the charges against her are not based on her views or on her political views”.
Ebtisam Alsaegh was harassed by the Bahraini authorities in several previous occasions. On March 20, 2017, she was detained for seven hours at Bahrain International Airport upon her return from attending the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. She was investigated with for five hours where her passport was also confiscated.
On 22 January 2017, before leaving Bahrain, she was again questioned for a statement she had made against the Bahraini authorities’ use of the death penalty. During the investigation, the investigator threatened Alsaegh not to “cross the red lines”.
She was previously interrogated by Public Prosecution in 23 November 2016 about what she published on “Twitter” and accused her of inciting hatred against the Bahraini regime and threatening of public peace and security. She was banned from traveling outside the country for a period of time and then she was allowed to after interrogation on January 22, 2017.
The return of the national security apparatus is a consecration of brutality:
On 2 January 2017, the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa issued Decree No. (1) of 2017 aimed at amending certain provisions of Decree No. (14) of 2002 regarding the establishment of the National Security Apparatus.
The amendment stipulates that: “Officers, non-commissioned officers and members of the National Security Apparatus shall have the status of judicial control officers for terrorist crimes, and except for such crimes, the Authority shall refer cases that require arrest or detention to the Ministry of the Interior for the purpose of taking legal action”.
The decree came to amend the King of Bahrain’s decree on November 28, 2011, which ruled that “the National Security Apparatus shall refer cases that require arrest or detention to the Ministry of the Interior for legal action”.
The decree, issued in 2011, follows the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, “Recommendations of Bassiouni,” issued on 23 November 2011, in “Recommendation 1718”, which called for “the amendment of the decree establishing the National Security Apparatus to keep it as a body of collecting intelligence information without law enforcement or arrest.
Where the National Security Apparatus must also have an independent general inspector office that performs the same functions as the complaints office of the Ministry of Interior. A legislation must be issued to enforce of the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure when persons are arrested even during emergency states”.
After new wave of complaints and criticism against the National Security Apparatus and its brutal acts, the new Royal Decree No. 66 of 2016 appoints a new head of the National Security Apparatus. Article 1 states that Sheikh Talal bin Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa is appointed as head of the National Security Apparatus, only to return in a more horrific and brutal manner in the first half of 2017 to torture, intimidate and entice activists, bloggers and human rights defenders.
Although the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), established by Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of five international legal experts, confirmed in July 2011 that the security forces brutally suppressed anti-government protests that were largely peaceful, the National Security Apparatus continues in the same pattern of cruel and arbitrary practices of repression, arrest, torture, interrogation, extortion, threats, intimidation, forced recruitment attempts, managing political file by security means, and the reinstatement of control and detention powers to the intelligence service, who horrified many families and tortured detainees.
The continued functioning of the National Security Apparatus is the last nail in the coffin of the reform process in Bahrain after 2011. That is specially while detainees at the National Security Apparatus are not at all safe, whereas the Bahraini monitoring mechanisms are not a guarantee of their protection. Reports and information on Alsaegh detention conditions whose case constituted a real test for the Bahraini regulatory institutions to prove their seriousness, openness with issues of utmost importance to public opinion and world opinion.
Despite the government’s assertions of accountability and that no individual is above the law, the bodies established to prevent ill-treatment of detainees under the custody of the Ministry of the Interior or the National Security Apparatus – the Ombudsman and the Special Investigations Unit – did not record any improvement in holding the security and perpetrators of abuses accountable.
The installation of the National Security Apparatus in Bahrain after the restoration of its powers by the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa coincided with an unprecedented security campaign in summoning of a group of human rights defenders and activists in documenting and monitoring violations from the ground, along with some social media bloggers. During the investigation, they were subjected to torture, ill-treatment and intimidation by the National Security Apparatus amid pro-government media campaign carried against them in the country.
In May of this year, a number of human rights defenders entered for interrogation by the National Security Service, inside the security complex, the third floor. An interrogation was initiated against the law for long hours while standing and blindfolded for this entire period. Lawyers were not allowed to follow the proceedings of the investigation, in which these activists were severely beaten.
These activists have also been subjected to religious slur, insulting, defamation, verbal harassment, sexual assault and electric shocks, as well as attempts to intimidate them by some of their family members if they do not leave their work with local and international human rights organizations. Interrogators have asked them to inform their colleagues to stop working in this field and some were forced to post on Twitter stating their suspension of activities in human rights and media, Otherwise, they will be re-arrested, tortured, sexually assaulted and imprisoned for life.
In the same context, the organizations participating in the drafting and writing of this report emphasize on:
Prohibit the use or incitement to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in all circumstances and call upon the Government of Bahrain to strictly abide by its obligations under international human rights law and to affirm that “the Bahraini authorities are obliged to investigate all allegations of human rights violations committed against Mrs. Alsaegh, including torture by security forces during interrogations, and to prevent its recurrence”.
The organizations participating in drafting and writing this report urge the Bahraini authorities to:
- Conduct an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the practices of torture and sexual abuse of Ebtisam Alsaegh with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards.
- Take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and physical and psychological integrity of Ebtisam Alsaegh and her family members.
- Release Ebtisam Alsaegh and all human rights defenders immediately and drop all charges against them.
- Stop targeting all human rights defenders in Bahrain and ensure that they are in all circumstances able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of retaliation and without any restrictions.
The undersigned organizations:
The European – Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)
SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights