Today, on Wednesday 19 September during the Item 5 General Debate at the 39th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain delivered an oral intervention discussing reprisals in the context of the UN Secretary-General’s recently released report. The intervention focused on reprisals by the Bahraini government against human rights defenders and their families, and noted in particular cases concerning Ebtesam al-Saegh, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Nabeel Rajab, and Nedal al-Salman, including for their collaboration and engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Council and Special Procedure mechanisms. Continue reading for the full text of the intervention, or click here for a PDF of the remarks.

Mr. President,

ADHRB welcomes the Secretary-General’s report on reprisals, in particular the ASG’s attention to the ongoing reprisals that Bahraini human rights defenders and their families face.

This report highlighted the cases of Ebtesam al-Saegh, Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, Nabeel Rajab, and Nedal al-Salman. He also specifically noted that more than 20 Bahraini human rights defenders and activists have been subjected to arbitrary travel bans when attempting to travel to Geneva to engage with this Council.

These reprisals have occurred over the past eight Council sessions, and have included travel bans, threats of physical and sexual violence against activists and their loved ones, and the detention of family members.

Ebtesam al-Saegh was physically, psychologically, and sexually tortured while National Security Agency officers questioned her human rights work, including her attendance at HRC and UPR sessions. She continues to face threats, harassment, and travel bans.

The family of human rights defender Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei has similarly been targeted for reprisal by Bahraini authorities. Sayed’s mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and cousin were detained in reprisal for his continued advocacy at the HRC. His mother-in-law Hajer Mansoor remains in the Isa Town women’s prison, where she has been subjected to ill-treatment and abuse as recently as this week. Mr. AlWadaei’s wife was also targeted and tried in absentia.

Yusuf al-Hoori is another Bahraini whose family has been targeted in response to his human rights work. In May 2017, his father and sister were arrested and forced to call Yusuf and implore him to stop engaging with the UN.

We note that these continued cases show the “ongoing trend of major harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders” that was identified in Secretary-General’s 2017 report.

Mr. Assistant Secretary-General, recently the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention warned Bahrain that widespread and systematic human rights abuses could be considered “crimes against humanity.” Considering Bahrain’s repeated and severe reprisals, do you echo these concerns? And, do you consider systematic reprisals with additional concern when perpetrated by HRC member candidates like Bahrain?

Thank you.