UA 365/11 BAHRAIN - WOMEN ACTIVISTS BEATEN, ARRESTED AT PROTEST
19 december 2011
Zainab al-Khawaja, an activist whose father has been sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in protests in Bahrain, was arrested on 15 December during a peaceful protest. Video footage shows her being mistreated during the arrest and she has been held since, along with her friend Ma'suma Sayyid Sharaf.
Zainab al-Khawaja, aged 27, is a Bahraini activist and the daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, one of the 14 prominent opposition activists sentenced by a military court to harsh prison terms in June 2011. She was detained on the evening of 15 December after a peaceful protest in the centre of a roundabout was dispersed by police using tear gas and sound bombs. When the police arrested her she was the only person remaining in the middle of the roundabout and she was sitting down peacefully. Video footage of her arrests shows how she was handcuffed and dragged by her handcuffs on the floor to a police car a few metres away by two policewomen, causing her head to repeatedly bang on the floor. She was allegedly also beaten on her legs, hands and head after the police took her inside the van. A friend, Ma'suma Sayyid Sharaf, was with her in the protest and when she tried to protect her from further beating, she was also arrested. They were both taken to al-Budaiye’ police station, in the outskirts of Manama, the capital of Bahrain, where they were reportedly beaten again.
Two lawyers were present during their interrogation by an official at the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) in the early hours of 16 December. Both women have been charged with illegal public gathering, showing contempt of the regime and assaulting a police officer. The lawyers requested that the two women detained be referred to a forensic doctor for examination due to bruises. The request was granted on 17 December. They have not been allowed family visits yet. The PPO ordered their detention for seven days pending further investigation. On Thursday 22 December, both women will appear before a judge who will decide if their detention has to be extended. The two women are currently held in the women’s detention centre in ‘Issa Town, south-west of Manama, the capital of Bahrain.
Please write immediately in English or Arabic:
* Expressing concern that Zainab al-Khawaja and Ma'suma Sayyid Sharaf have been detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and urging their immediate and unconditional release;
* Urging the Bahraini authorities to immediately carry out an independent and impartial investigation into the allegations that the women were beaten during the arrest, to bring anyone found responsible to justice and to protect them from further torture or other ill-treatment.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 30 JANUARY 2012 TO:
His Majesty the King
Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
P.O. Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 176 64 587
Salutation: Your Majesty
Minister of Interior
Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah bin Ahmad Al Khalifa
Ministry of Interior
P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: + 973 172 32 661
Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Human Rights and Social Development
Dr. Fatima bint Mohammed Al Balooshi
Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development
PO Box 32868, Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 171 04 977
Salutation: Your Excellency
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.
30 BELGRAVE SQUARE
GB-LONDON SW1 X 8QB, UNITED KINGDOM
FAX + 44 207-20 191 83
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.
Months have passed since scores of people demonstrated at the Pearl Roundabout in February and March 2011. However, scores of health workers, opposition and human rights activists, teachers and others are still facing trials or are serving prison sentences in Bahrain.
Zainab al-Khawaja is the daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a prominent opposition activist and human rights defender sentenced on 21 June to life in prison for his involvement in the protests in Bahrain (see UA 139/11 and updates). He alleged he was tortured in prison. His daughter Zainab has been very critical about the Bahraini authorities when speaking to the international media about the crackdown on protesters and her father’s unfair trial and torture. Zainab’s husband too was sentenced in October 2011 to four years in prison for his involvement in the protests. She staged a hunger strike to protest against the arrest of her father in April 2011.
On 23 November, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), established by Royal Decree on 29 June to investigate abuses during the March/February protests and other abuses in the following months, issued its 500 page report.
Hundreds of cases of human rights violations were covered in the report, including beatings of protesters by security forces, mass arbitrary arrests of mainly Shi’a opposition activists and widespread torture, with five deaths resulting from torture in custody. At least 46 people have died in connection with the protests, including five security personnel. The report urged the Bahraini government to immediately establish an independent body made up of representatives of civil society, the opposition and the government; to oversee the implementation of the BICI’s recommendations; to usher in legislative reforms to ensure laws are in line with international human rights standards; and to bring to account those responsible for abuses.
Name: Zainab al-Khawaja and Ma'suma Sayyid Sharaf
Gender m/f: both female