13 July 2018 – On 5 July, Bahraini female political prisoner, Hajer Mansoor, was subjected to further threats and reprisals by Major Maryam Albardoli, the head of Isa Town Prison Centre. This is in retaliation to the recent engagement her son-in-law, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), has had with the United Nations and the UK Parliament.
Major Albardoli threatened to punish Hajer if she continued to speak about the abuses she suffers in prison. BIRD learned that Albardoli stated she doesn’t “care if people call me [her] a torturer, but you [Hajer] must stop speaking out about what happens in the prison.”
Major Albardoli then denied Hajer of her weekly visitation rights and turned her husband, brothers, and 90-year-old mother, who requires a wheelchair, away from Isa Town Prison. Furthermore, her officers deceived them by stating Hajer was in the hospital.
An officer informed Major Albardoli that Hajer’s family had arrived for their scheduled weekly visitation, and in response, she told the officer that Hajer’s visitation had been cancelled, in the presence of Hajer herself.
Officer Hala (surname unknown) then deceived Hajer’s family by claiming that Hajer couldn’t attend visitation because she had an appointment at the Al-Qalaa Clinic, and that they should leave as a result. The family insisted they were unaware of such an appointment, and questioned Officer Hala further, but the latter refused to divulge any details and instead, reiterated that the family should leave.
After being turned away from Isa Town prison, Hajer’s family made three phone calls to the prison, wherein officers refused their requests to speak to Hajer. They stated Hajer has no regular calls on Thursday, therefore the family should expect her call on Friday (today).
Commenting, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said: “Taking repressive measures against my mother-in-law for speaking out against her ordeal at Isa Town is a new low. I sincerely believe in engaging with UN bodies and the Foreign Affairs Committee. Reprisals will only stop when the Bahraini government feels the pressure of international scrutiny, and that will only be the case when FCO ministers recognise that I cannot continue with my work without facing a backlash from Bahraini authorities”.
High-Profile Events that Triggered the Reprisal
Major Albardoli’s actions follow several major public events in which numerous mentions of reprisals against Sayed Ahmed’s family members were made, and references to Major Maryam Albardoli were made. Among the events were:
2 July: ADHRB delivered an oral intervention at the 38th session of the Human Rights Council, to raise concerns about women activists detained in Isa Town Prison.
3 July: BIRD published the summary of an event it had organised a day earlier, with the newly-established All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf. During the event, BIRD explicitly mentioned the treatment of women activists at Isa Town Prison.
4 July: The Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) in the UK Parliament published a submission filed by BIRD exposing the failure of UK-trained bodies, the Ombudsman and Special Investigation Unit, to investigate torture allegations against Sayed Ahmed’s family members, including Hajer.
4 July: The FAC published a submission by the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC), which raised issues of reprisals against Sayed Ahmed’s family members;
4 July: During Bahrain’s CCPR review in Geneva, Commissioner Professor Olivier de Frouville directly asked the Bahraini government delegation about reprisals against Sayed Ahmed’s family.
4 July: Vice UK published an article citing Sayed Ahmed and mentioning the women detained in Isa Town Prison.
Potential Defamation in Bahraini Press
On 6 July, Gulf Daily News published an article in an attempt to discredit the CCPR Commissioner’s comments on Bahrain and BIRD’s engagement with the UN. More specifically, Faisal Fulad, the Secretary-General for Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS) condemned the Committee’s refusal to rely on reports submitted by BHRWS and the National Institution of Human Rights (NIHR).
Mr Fulad criticised the Committee’s decision to instead refer to “shadow reports by organisations like BIRD, ADHRB and inputs from Amnesty, which are known for non-neutrality and lack of transparency.”
In May 2018, the Guardian received a similar complaint from Mr Fulad, in another attempt to defame BIRD’s work. This was prompted by the publication of a joint report by BIRD and Reprieve, on the role of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office on human rights abuses in the Kingdom.