23 October 2017 – On Sunday October 22, 2017, the Bahraini government released Ebtisam al-Saegh, Radhi al-Qatari and Mohamed al-Shakhoori from detention. All three detainees have faced ill-treatment and torture during their time in arbitrary detention relating to their human rights work. While Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) welcomes the initial release of these activists, we also call upon the government to drop all charges against al-Saegh, al-Qatari and al-Shakhoori. ADHRB furthermore calls for independent investigations into the abuses committed against these activists, with the aim of holding accountable the high level authorities responsible, in addition to individual perpetrators.
Human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh has been subjected to repeated abuses at the hands Bahraini government for several years. This year, al-Saegh faced a series of increasing reprisals for her cooperation with the United Nations and other international rights organizations. In April, following her participation in the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), al-Saegh was the subject of a state-backed public defamation campaign, and was targeted with intimidation, travel bans, and threats made against her family. Then in May, al-Saegh was summoned for interrogation by the National Security Agency (NSA) where she was physically, psychologically and sexually tortured by NSA security officers. Authorities threatened al-Saegh by saying that she would continue to be targeted if she did not cease all of her human rights activities. In early July, the Bahraini government arrested al-Saegh and later charged her with unsubstantiated “terrorism” charges, together with al-Shakhoori and al-Qatari.
Mohamed Khalil al-Shakhoori, a 33 year old human rights defender, was beaten, sexually abused and subjected to electrical shocks by NSA security officials. The officers made it clear to al-Shakhoori that their torture was meant to coerce him to cease his human rights work. However al-Shakhoori continued his work, and in July of this year he was forcibly disappeared. He was removed from his home by masked plainclothes security forces operating without a warrant. No cause for the arrest was given as al-Shakhoori was removed to an undisclosed location. Radhi al-Qatari, a member of the Manama Observatory for Human Rights was subjected to similar treatment earlier this year. Qatari was summoned to NSA offices without reason, then detained, interrogated and tortured. NSA officers electrocuted al-Qatari and threaten to summon his family. The officers forced him to falsely confess to charges of terrorism and receiving money from foreigners.
“While we are glad to see Ebtisam, Mohammad, and Radhi return home from detention, these activists should never have been imprisoned for their work,” said ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “Many in the international community, including the United Nations and United States, have raised critical concerns over Ebtisam and others’ cases. Now is the time to follow up on those concerns to guarantee that these activists will not face renewed arbitrary detention under their trumped up terrorism charges.”
In July 2017, a group of four UN Special Procedures mandate holders reported on al-Saegh’s case, stating that “the Bahraini authorities have a duty to investigate all allegations of human rights violations committed against Ms. Alsaegh, including torture by security forces during interrogations, and to prevent their re-occurrence.” UN Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour, included al-Saegh’s case by name and cited several other instances in which human rights defenders has been targeted for reprisals. He called for the end to such practices and implored other member states to “report allegations of intimidation and reprisals for cooperating with the United Nations on human rights as they occur to ensure follow-up and action” Shortly after her detention, the US Department of State called for al-Saegh’s release and urged authorities to investigate the abuses she endured. The United States is not the only country speaking out; other states, including Denmark and Ireland, have raised concerns for al-Saegh and those like her at recent sessions of the Human Rights Council and urged Bahrain to cease reprisals against those who are working to preserve basic human rights.
ADHRB calls upon the Government of Bahrain to stop all targeting of human rights defenders and those who cooperate with the UN. Additionally, ADHRB urges authorities to drop all charges against Ebtisam al-Saegh, Radhi al-Qatari and Mohamed al-Shakhoori. These three activists are only the representative of the thousands of prisoners of conscience held in Bahrain. No human rights or political activist should be jailed for their work. Furthermore, ADRHB stresses that those who have inflicted torture upon these activists and others be held accountable. The Bahraini government must end the culture of impunity for torture and abuse in its security forces by holding senior officials accountable for widespread and systematic abuses.