UK-Trained Bahraini Ombudsman Breaches Confidentiality of Victim of Abuse

21 March 2019 – Yesterday, the Bahraini Embassy in London published a string of tweets including the correspondence between the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, and the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman regarding allegations of ill-treatment against Mr Alwadaei’s mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor Hassan, who is currently held at Isa Town Prison.

These tweets followed the significant attention when the head of the prison, Lieutenant Colonel Mariam Albardoli, was identified as the individual responsible for perpetuating the abuses against Ms Mansoor, including in a letter sent by six United Nations Experts and in an article published in the Daily Mail.

The Bahraini Embassy in London published:

These tweets also disclose the email addresses of all those copied in the correspondence, in a gross miscarriage of confidentiality. This is particularly concerning given that the Ombudsman’s own policy guarantees “Full confidentiality … during the investigations and, according to the law, no-one can access or reveal details about them in any way.”

The Ombudsman claims to be an “independent secretariat” both financially and administratively from the Bahraini Government. However, sharing private communications with the Bahraini Embassy in London, which primarily represents the interests of the Bahraini state abroad, is at odds with holding the Bahraini authorities to account. Therefore, this incident throws into question the Ombudsman’s alleged independence from the Bahraini Government.

Commenting, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said: It was shocking to see my private communications with the Ombudsman, a body that is supposed to be independent from the Bahraini government, published by the Bahraini Embassy in London on their Twitter account. This is a blatant breach of confidentiality and indicative of a bias.

Six UN experts have identified Lt Col Albardoli as the prison official responsible for the abuses in Isa Town Prison. Instead of independently investigating Albardoli’s role, the government has thrown its full weight behind her. This clearly shows that the reprisals against my mother-in-law are backed by the state.

If the government has nothing to hide, they should allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to investigate the systematic abuse occurring in Isa Town Prison.”

Previous Breach of Confidentiality

The Ombudsman has already breached Mr Alwadaei’s confidentiality in the past. In August 2018, they included the First Secretary of the Bahrain Embassy in London, Fahad Al Binali, as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs, in his communication with the Ombudsman without Mr Alwadaei’s prior consent or notification.

Notably, when Mr Alwadaei first tried to initiate investigations into the ill-treatment of his family in August 2017, the Ombudsman raised issues of consent that delayed the opening of the investigation.


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