Fears mount for detained Bahraini human rights activist

Ebtisam al-Saegh's arrest seen as part of a crackdown against civil society in the Gulf monarchy.

Activists of Amnesty International demonstrate to show their support with the Syrian people at the Fontaine des Innocentes in Paris May 29, 2012. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Activists of Amnesty International demonstrate to show their support with the Syrian people at the Fontaine des Innocentes in Paris May 29, 2012.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Amnesty International and Bahraini democracy advocates based in Britain and the US are concerned for the safety of a prominent woman human rights activist arrested in Bahrain on Monday after she tweeted criticism of the king.
Ebtisam al-Saegh’s arrest came weeks after she was beaten and sexually assaulted by members of the National Security Agency during a previous arrest, according to Amnesty International. She was warned then to stop her human rights activities, which included documenting police abuses in connection with the killing in May of five peaceful demonstrators in shootings that were condemned as “unlawful” by UN human rights experts. Her whereabouts are unknown and the fear is she will face the same or worse treatment this time.
“The Bahraini authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Ebtisam al-Saegh, whose only crime is speaking up against a government committed to crushing all forms of dissent. We are deeply concerned about Ebtisam’s well-being,” said Samah Hadid, director for Amnesty International campaigns in the Middle East.
“We fear she is at high risk of torture as long as she remains in custody,” Hadid added.
Saegh’s renewed arrest is part of a crackdown on Bahraini civil society and human rights activists that has drawn international condemnation. Human rights groups allege that Bahrain has moved from arresting and/or banning the travel of rights activists to torturing them in a bid to silence them.
On Monday, Saegh tweeted about the ill treatment of women at the hands of the National Security Agency, writing that the king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, was responsible for their actions. At 11:45 that night her house was raided by masked officers in civilian clothing carrying body and head cameras, Amnesty said. Around 25 officers claiming to belong to the Criminal Investigation Directorate arrived at her house in five civilian cars and a minibus, it said. No warrant for her arrest was presented.
In response to written questions from The Jerusalem Post, the press office of Bahrain’s embassy in London wrote that Bahrain is “firmly committed to the protection and safeguarding of human rights” and has oversight bodies to safeguard them and independently investigate violations.
“Allegations such as the ones raised are taken very seriously and it is within the mandate of both the National Institution for Human Rights and the Ombudsman’s Office to examine complaints when received in order to take all necessary measures to promote and defend fundamental freedoms in the Kingdom of Bahrain. At the time of writing the embassy is not aware of any complaint lodged with the oversight bodies mentioned above,” the press office said.
The embassy did not answer a question on where Saegh is being held, instead referring the Post to the National Institution for Human Rights in Manama, which did not respond to an email query.