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Ebtisam Al-Saegh Arrested, Abused in Prison

Status: 
Detained and charged
About the situation

On 18 July 2017, human rights defender Ebtisam Al-Saegh was charged with terrorism-related offences. Persons charged under Bahrain’s Anti-Terrorism law may be detained for up to six months without court proceedings. Sources report major concerns that Ebtisam Al-Saegh may be subjected to torture and other cruel treatment and punishment while in detention.

About Ebtisam Al-Saegh

Ebtisam Al-SaeghEbtisam Al-Saegh is a Bahraini human rights defender with the organisation SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR). She is known for her work reporting and publicising human rights violations in the Gulf monarchy, and calling publicly for justice for victims of torture in Bahrain detention centres.

In May 2017, Al-Saegh was detained, sexually assaulted and tortured by security officers at the National Security Agency in Muharraq. She continued her activism upon release.

21 July 2017
Ebtisam Al-Saegh charged and detained under Anti-Terrorism law

On 18 July 2017, human rights defender Ebtisam Al-Saegh was charged with terrorism-related offences. Persons charged under Bahrain’s Anti-Terrorism law may be detained for up to six months without court proceedings. Sources report major concerns that Ebtisam Al-Saegh may be subjected to torture and other cruel treatment and punishment while in detention.

On 18 July 2017, following two weeks of detention and interrogation, Ebtisam Al-Saegh was charged under Bahrain’s Anti-Terrorism law. Individuals charged under the Anti-Terrorism law may be detained for up to six months without trial proceedings. The human rights defender is currently being held in the Isa Town Women’s Prison, and sources report that she has been seen wearing a neck brace, and something covering her nose.

On 3 July, Bahrain security forces arrested Ebtisam Al-Saegh without a warrant following a raid on her home. On 4 July, inmates at Isa Town Women's Prison reported seeing Ebtisam Al-Saegh injured following her interrogation. In the early morning of 6 July 2017, masked men raided the home of the detained human rights defender, telling the family that “your mother didn’t cooperate with us”. The masked individuals proceeded to confiscate all of the mobile phones in the house. The raid occurred one day after the family made a complaint at the Ministry of Interior, the Ombudsman Office and the National Institute for Human Rights concerning Ebtisam Al-Saegh’s arrest and detention in an unknown location.

Front Line Defenders has previously reported on the harassment and intimidation of Ebtisam Al-Saegh by Bahraini authorities, which has intensified over the past year. In May 2017, during a seven-hour long interrogation, Ebtisam Al-Saegh was subjected to severe beatings, sexual assault as well as physical and psychological torture by Bahraini security forces at the National Security Agency (NSA) in Muharraq. In March 2017, Ebtisam Al-Saegh was detained for seven hours at Bahrain International Airport upon her return from the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council. In January 2017, she was questioned prior to leaving Bahrain, regarding a statement she had previously delivered against the use of the death penalty by Bahraini authorities. During that investigation, the interrogator had warned Ebtisam Al-Saegh not to “cross red lines”. She had already been questioned by the Public Prosecution office on 23 November 2016 in relation to content she posted on Twitter and was accused of “inciting hatred against the Bahraini regime” and “threatening public safety and security”.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the arrest and detention of human rights defender Ebtisam Al-Saegh and urges the Bahraini authorities to immediately release her. Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned about the high risk of torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of the human rights defender while in detention. These concerns are magnified given the human rights defender’s previous experiences of torture and sexual assault while in the custody of the NSA. Front Line Defenders also calls on Bahraini authorities to allow Ebtisam Al-Saegh immediate and unfettered access to her family and lawyers, and to immediately end all further harassment of the human rights defender, which is directly in reprisal for her legitimate work  exposing human rights abuses in Bahrain.

 

6 July 2017
Security Forces Raid Home of Detained WHRD

Early morning on 6 July 2017, masked men raided the home of detained WHRD Ebtisam Al-Saegh, who was arrested following a previous raid on 3 July and is currently held in an unknown location. The 6 July house raid came one day after the family made a complaint at the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman Office and the National Institute for Human Rights.

On 6 July, while conducting a search for Al-Saegh's cell phone, the masked men told the family "your mother didn't cooperate with us," and proceded to confiscate all mobile phones in the house.

Al-Saegh, who was tortured and sexually abused by the National Security Agency during a previous detention in May, is currently being held in an unknown location. Her family has visited numerous police stations and detentions centres seeking information about her, including Isa Town police station and the Criminal Investigations Department. In each place, they were denied information of her location. On 5 May, Al-Saegh's husband tried to deliver her personal clothes to Isa Town prison, but police refused to take the clothes, claiming she was not present.

In a message sent via other detainees to her family, Al-Saegh said: "Tell them my situation is extremely bad. They’ve punished me intensely.” Detainees have reported via phone calls out of prison that they have seen Al-Saegh wearing a neck brace and with something covering her nose.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the Bahraini authorities arrest, detention and mistreatment of WHRD Ebtisam Al-Saegh and calls on the government to immediate release her.

4 July 2017
Ebtisam Al-Saegh Arrested, Injured in Custody

At approximately 11:45pm on 3 July, Bahrain security forces arrested without warrant WHRD Ebtisam Al-Saegh following a raid on her home. Last month, Bahraini security forces detained, sexually assaulted and tortured Al-Saegh at the National Security Agency in Muharraq. On 4 July, inmates at Isa Town Women's Prison reported seeing Ebtisam Al-Sayegh injured following her interrogation. She is currently being held in an unknown location.

On 3 July 2017, at approximately 11:45pm, five civilian cars and a bus arrived at Ebtisam Al-Saegh’s home in Jid Ali, south of Manama. Six armed and masked individuals wearing body cameras, believed to be members of the National Security Agency (NSA) in plainclothes, reportedly raided the house, and arrested Ebtisam Al-Saegh without presenting an arrest warrant. The human rights defender is currently being detained in an unknown location, and has not contacted her family of lawyer since her arrest.

Front Line Defenders has previously reported on the harassment and intimidation of Ebtisam Al-Saegh by Bahraini authorities, which has intensified over the past year. In May 2017, during a seven-hour long interrogation, Ebtisam Al-Saegh was subjected to severe beatings, sexual assault as well as physical and psychological torture. Her interrogators threatened her with rape and attacks on her family if she did not put an end to her human rights activities. In March 2017, Ebtisam Al-Saegh was detained for seven hours at Bahrain International Airport upon her return from the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council. In January 2017, she was questioned prior to leaving Bahrain, regarding a statement she had previously delivered against the use of the death penalty by Bahraini authorities. During that investigation, the interrogator had warned Ebtisam Al-Saegh not to “cross red lines”. She had already been questioned by the Public Prosecution office on 23 November 2016 in relation to content she posted on Twitter and was accused of inciting hatred against the Bahraini regime and threatening public safety and security. She was then banned from international travel for a period of time and permitted to travel once again after her interrogation on 22 January 2017.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the raid, arrest and detention of renowned human rights defender Ebtisam Al-Saegh in an unknown location and urges the Bahraini authorities to immediately release her. Front Line Defenders is further concerned about the high risk of torture, cruel, inhumane  or degrading treatment of the human rights defender while in detention, especially since her arrest comes just one month after she was subjected to torture and sexual assault while in the custody of the NSA . These concerns are amplified given that her whereabouts still remain unknown to her legal council and family. Front Line Defenders also calls on Bahraini authorities to immediately end all further harassment of Ebtisam Al-Saegh, which is directly related to her legitimate work in exposing human rights abuses in Bahrain.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Bahrain to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Ebtisam Al-Saegh as Front Line Defenders believes that she is being held solely as a result of her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
  2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Ebtisam Al-Saegh, as well as members of her family;
  3. Ensure that the treatment of Ebtisam Al-Saegh, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment', adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;
  4. Immediately inform the family and lawyer  of Ebtisam Al-Saegh of the place of her detention, and allow them immediate and unfettered access to her;
  5. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the acts of torture and sexual assault carried out against Ebtisam Al-Saegh in May 2017, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
  6. Cease targeting all human rights defenders in Bahrain and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

For more on Ebtisam's work and past cases of persecution reported on by Front Line Defenders, see her HRD profile page.