25 February 2019– Today, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld the three-year sentence against family members of human rights defender, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, who have now exhausted all legal remedies. The detention of Mr Alwadaei’s mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor Hassan, brother-in-law Sayer Nizar Alwadaei, and cousin, Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor was deemed unlawful by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary detention earlier this year.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemns today’s decision in the strongest term and urges the Bahraini authorities to ensure their immediate and unconditional release.
Commenting, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said: “This is what you expect from a corrupt injustice system. I will not rest until my family is free. Their continued imprisonment is a shameful reminder of the UK’s weak position when dealing with human rights abuses committed by an ally country.”
Today’s decision marks the end of a long and flawed trial marred with due process violations. Ms Mansoor, Mr Nizar Alwadaei, and Mr Mansoor were arrested in March 2017, while Mr Alwadaei was attending the 34th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The three were subjected to physical and psychological abuse and sentenced on trumped-up charges of planting fake explosive devices to create terror among the population.
The three were convicted on the basis of “confidential sources” and coerced confessions, as the prosecution failed to present any physical evidence linking the three to the alleged crime. An appeals court had upheld their sentence on 20 December 2017.
In January 2019, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Ms Mansoor, Mr Nizar Alwadaei and Mr Mansoor as “arbitrary” and as an “act of reprisal” for Mr Alwadaei’s human rights work in London. The group also called for their immediate and unconditional release.
Mr Nizar Alwadaei is serving a total of 11 years in prison as a result of two additional cases, one of which was also upheld by the Court of Cassation on 11 February 2019.
The international response in relation to the case of Mr Alwadaei’s family has been almost unanimous in condemning the abuse and judicial harassment suffered by the three.
- 83 UK MPs have signed EDM 509 raising concerns about the case
- 19 Feb 2019: the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf, Chris Law MP, wrote to MENA Minister Alistair Burt urging him to address human rights issues during his trip to Manama on 20 February
- 11 Sep 2018: Westminster Hall Debate on Human Rights and Technical Assistance to Bahrain mentioned reprisals against Sayed Ahmed’s family.
- 22 Feb 2019: The Chair of the Human Rights subcommittee at the European Parliament, Antonio Panzeri, issued a statement condemning the imprisonment of all three individuals, adding that their release is “is the only way to ensure fair justice.”
- 22 Feb 2019: 7 MEPs wrote to the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini
- 20 Mar 2018: Julie Ward MEP wrote Letter to High Representative
- 12 Feb 2018: The High Representative replied to a Parliamentary Question stating that Sayed’s family case is “well known”.
- 23 Oct 2017: 40 MEPs sent Letter to High Representative of the EU
- 17 Oct 2017: MEP Julie Ward further questioned the HR/VP
US Department of State
- 22 Mar 2018: DoS spokesperson answered question about Duaa Alwadaei
- 17 Nov 2017: DoS spokesperson answered question about Sayed’s family, saying it represents a “major concern”
Human Rights Community
- Amnesty International issued a statement condemning the denial of medical access to Ms Mansoor, labelling her a “prisoner of conscience.”
- The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders expressed concern for Ms Mansoor’s poor prison conditions in Isa Town Prison.
- On 12 Sep 2018: UN Secretary-General in its annual report, expressed serious concerns for the “ongoing trend of harassment and intimidation” against Bahraini human rights defender, including Mr Alwadaei’s family as a result of his cooperation with the UN.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has never acknowledged that these measures have been arranged in response to Mr Alwadaei’s activism.
Since August 2017, Mr Alwadaei has been in contact with oversight bodies to request them to conduct an investigation into accounts of ill-treatment and torture alleged by his family in prison. The FCO has been involved in the entire correspondence between Mr Alwadaei and the Ombudsman, witnessing firsthand how they have systematically failed to conduct impartial investigations thereby paving the way for the unlawful conviction of Mr Alwadaei’s family.
Nevertheless, the FCO still encourages Mr Alwadaei to refer his concerns to these oversight bodies and has never acknowledged the damage they have caused to his personal and professional life.
The targeting of Mr Alwadaei’s family has gone beyond the conviction of his mother-in-law, brother-in-law and cousin to three years’ imprisonment in October 2017.
Mr Nizar Alwadaei is serving 11 years in prison in total as a result of two additional criminal cases. On 29 November 2017, he was sentenced to another 3 years on identical charges, a sentence that was upheld by the Court of Appeals on 8 February 2018, and further upheld by the Court of Cassation on 11 February 2019. He has now exhausted all legal remedies in relation to this case. On 26 March 2018, he was sentenced to an additional 7 years, a sentence that was reduced to 5 years on 5 June 2018.
On 21 March 2018, Mr Alwadaei’s wife, Duaa Alwadaei, was sentenced in absentia to two months in prison for allegedly insulting a public official at Bahrain International Airport on 26 October 2016. The incident to which Mrs Alwadaei’s charges relate took place after Sayed Ahmed participated in a protest against the King of Bahrain’s meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May in London. Mrs Alwadaei resides in London.
On 16 September 2018, Ms Mansoor was subjected to assault by the head of Isa Town prison, Major Maryam Albardoli and other prison guards together with her fellow inmates Medina Ali and Najah Yusuf. This incident followed the publication of a report by the UN Secretary-General, wherein serious concerns were expressed for the “ongoing trend of harassment and intimidation” against Bahraini human rights defenders, including Mr Alwadaei’s family as a result of his cooperation with the UN.
Since the assault, further restrictions on phone calls, family visits and time allocated outside the cell have also been imposed on all inmates. As a result, Ms Mansoor has not seen her family since September 2018. As of February 2019, Ms Mansoor is being denied access to urgent medical treatment for a lump in her breast that she fears might be cancerous and other medical issues. In February 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders expressed concerns for Ms Mansoor’s poor prison conditions at Isa Town Prison.