5 September 2017 – The UN today revealed its communications on Bahraini security officials’ arbitrary detention and torture of London-based human rights defender Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei’s family.
Six experts from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a document expressing “grave concern” to the Bahraini government at the allegations of arbitrary arrest and detention of three relatives of Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, as well as death threats and treatment amounting to torture.
Security officers arrested AlWadaei’s brother-in-law Sayed Nazar AlWadaei, mother-in-law Hajar Mansoor Hasan, and maternal cousin Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor in March 2017. They were reportedly targeted in relation to Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei’s human rights work. After days of detention without official charge, the three individuals were presented with terrorism charges, based largely on coerced confessions and “confidential sources”.
Security officials interrogated Hajar Mansoor, 49, for three periods each lasting around 11 hours between 5 and 7 March. Officers allegedly forced her to stand for extended periods and humiliated her with abusive language. They also allegedly threatened to cancel the family’s commercial licenses, suspend her husband’s pension payments and arrest her daughter, son-in-law and youngest son.
Officials questioned Hajar Mansoor about who had contacted the US Embassy when security forces at Bahrain Airport detained her daughter (Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei’s wife) and infant grandson, a US citizen in October 2016. The UN experts pointed to this earlier detention as another alleged targeting of Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei’s family members in retaliation for his human rights activities.
Hajar Mansoor’s alleged ill-treatment during the interrogation led her to collapse and faint, sustaining injuries to her hand and shoulder that required hospital treatment. Authorities have not allowed her to see family since her detention, and refused her the medication she needs for several health conditions.
Sayed Nazar, 18, was allegedly arrested without a warrant on 2 March, then detained for six days without official charge. He was reportedly subjected to ill-treatment, beaten and deprived of sleep for two days of interrogations.
Officials threatened Sayed Nazar that they would continue “to take revenge on him” for AlWadaei’s human rights work, and tortured him into implicating family members in “wrongdoing”. The eighteen year old was reportedly told he would be killed if he did not sign the presented written confession and if he did not confirm this at the Public Prosecution office.
Mahmood Marzooq, 29, was also allegedly arrested without a warrant on 2 March and held for six days without official charge. During his interrogation he was allegedly threatened, ill-treated and coerced to sign a false confession. No lawyer was present.
On 8 March all three individuals were presented with terrorism-related charges. The evidence is allegedly limited to “confidential sources”, their coerced confessions, and fake explosives that authorities claim to have found. All three deny the charges.
Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei is Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD). He is a noted human rights advocate and the UN communication expresses “concern” that the arrests may have occurred “at least in part, in reprisal for [Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei’s] cooperation with the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations, in particular his attendance to the 34th session of the Human Rights Council”, which coincided with the arrests.
The UN experts expressed “grave concern” that the actions were intended to “intimidate and impair the human rights activities” of Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei. They also note “significant grounds” to assume the three individuals may be subjected to further ill-treatment while in detention.
Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei commented, “The Bahraini authorities have miserably failed to justify the ongoing arbitrary imprisonment and torture of my family members. UN member states, in particular the UK and the US as close allies of Bahrain, should take the concerns raised by six UN experts into account and put pressure on Bahrain to immediately release them.”
The Bahraini government’s response outright ignored several explicit requests for more information. The response also failed to fully address many concerns noted by the UN group, and completely denies the allegations of torture, refusals to provide medical care, and denial of contact with family and lawyers.
The six UN OHCHR experts are as follows:
José Guevara, Vice Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
UN communication sent on 27 March 17
Bahrain response on 24 Apr 2017