Responding to the reports about the arrest of woman rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh on Monday in a midnight raid, human rights organizations – Amnesty International and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemned the crackdown on the activist. Al-Saegh’s arrest comes nearly a month after she was allegedly sexually assaulted by the National Security Agency (NSA) officials in May. The rights groups claimed Tuesday she was at the risk of torture again.
Al-Saegh was arrested “after her house was raided [Monday night] by masked officers in civilian clothing carrying the body and head cameras. Around twenty-five officers claiming to belong to the CID (Criminal Investigation Directorate) arrived at her house in five civilian cars and a mini bus,” Amnesty International said in a statement. No warrant was presented for the arrest, the statement read. The human rights organization further said Al-Saegh was seen Tuesday, in the early hours, at the Issa Town detention center for women, on the outskirts of capital Manama. She was later transferred to an undisclosed place.
Non-profit organization BIRD that focuses on the calls of democracy and human rights in Bahrain – called for an independent investigation into her arbitrary detention and ill-treatment in July and torture and sexual abuse in May. “BIRD has spoken to Al-Sayegh’s family, who believe she was arrested by members of the NSA. When the family asked for the purpose of the arrest, the officers gave no information and did not state where they were taking her,” the organization said.
This is not the first time the activist has faced such a clampdown. She was called to the Muharraq Police Station on May 26 for questioning, where she was detained by the NSA officers, according to the BIRD. In an interview to the rights organization, she said she was blindfolded and tortured. Bird said the summons was in relations to her human rights activities.
A prominent human rights activist, Al-Saegh works for the organization Salam for Human Rights and Democracy. She was also summoned in January and in June 2016, over her documentation of rights violation in Bahrain, according to another organization, the Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). Several rights activists expressed concern over the latest crackdown.
In a statement released June 16, the United Nations criticized Bahrain over worsening human right clampdown. “Over the past year, there has been a sharp deterioration of the human rights situation in the country. This has included unacceptable restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, aimed at muzzling any discordant voice and suppressing dissent,” the UN said adding several experts have expressed concern over the broader powers given to NSA officials.
The situation for human rights defenders in the country worsened after the alleged discrimination of majority Shia population and corruption by the government officials triggered widespread revolt February 2011. Many prominent activities have alleged unlawful detention and torture by the state. A 2015 report by the rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, claimed the government resorted to torture methods like electric shocks, beatings and sexual abuse against detainees.
Bahrain also drew criticism over the travel ban imposed on several activists and abuse victims attempting to take part in the 32nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2016. Apart from Al-Saegh, Hussain Radhi, and Ebrahim Al-Demistani were the other activists barred from traveling.