EMBARGOED – Thursday 25 April 2019, 11.30 Beirut / 09.30 London
SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights – End Systematic Sexual Torture in Bahraini Prisons
Beirut – 25 April 2019 – Bahrain must take immediate action to halt the systematic practice of torture of a sexual nature and hold to account those accused of carrying it out, urged a report issued today by Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Salam DHR).
“As a member of the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Council, the government must act now to end the now systematic practice of sexual torture. Despite laws prohibiting it, domestic measures have failed and the international community must now get involved to ensure justice and to secure treatment and reparations.” said Ebrahim Sarhan, Lebanon Director for Salam DHR.
Salam DHR’s new report, of 24 pages, features five cases, including that of Ebrahim Sarhan himself. The organization states that it has hundreds of other such cases on file but is unable to release them, due to the social stigma felt by those who have faced sexual torture. The cases of Ebtisam AlSaegh and Najah Yousuf are those currently in the public domain while those of Sarhan, Younis Sultan and Z.A. are revealed for the first time.
“For the first time, I reveal the deeply held personal trauma that government officials inflicted on. I suffered and I want it to stop – all of it. We need to break the wall of silence suffered by other Bahrainis. The shame is not on me or others who have suffered but on the officials who do this on a daily basis and the government that facilitates it by taking no action.” added Sarhan.
The report sets out the international legal framework that bans any type of torture, and the legal provisions that the government of Bahrain has also ratified banning the practice and committing the authorities to hold to account those accused of carrying it out.
In practice, however, Bahraini security officials have repeatedly and routinely tortured human rights activists, lawyers, and politicians. This practice has continued for almost 50 years, since Bahrain’s independence in 1971. Today, Bahraini practitioners systematically and routinely torture detainees to coerce and extract information, or change the conduct of victims, their families or other loved one.
Torture of a sexual nature, in particular, is a depraved practice, as torturers use the most intimate and personal parts of a person in order to inflict suffering. Because of its very nature, it is difficult for victims to discuss with anyone else, let alone in public. In Bahrain, the issue is largely suffered in silence.
The absence of accountability threatens the security of the entire community in Bahrain. It signals to society that perpetrators are safe and that the political and judicial system is intended to act against those who speak out or act in a way that the authorities do not approve. As the report exemplifies, in Bahrain, when a torturer says “no one can protect you”, it is a statement of fact.
In 2017 three agents of Bahrain’s National Security Agency threatened Ibrahim Sarhan, a lawyer and human rights activist. They coldly told him that they would rape him if he did not respond to their requests. United Nations human rights experts intervened in his case, but the government’s response to their correspondence merely obfuscated what actually happened.
Salam DHR calls appeals to all Bahrainis and survivors of torture of a sexual character throughout the world to speak out. We share their suffering and they should feel no shame in speaking out about their experiences. Their voice will help put an end to this depraved practice and move us all towards holding perpetrators to account.
The systematic practice of sexual torture in Bahrain is not only a grave human rights violation, but, given the nature of how the government has implemented it, it must be considered a crime against humanity.
For information, please contact:
Drewery Dyke – English and French
+447800989221 / @drewerydyke
Ebrahim Sarhan – Arabic
+96178889433 / @ebrahim_sarhan