23 October 2017 – Ahead of UK-based activist’s family hearing on 30 October, 40 Members of the European Parliament from different political groups sent an open letter to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, urging her to call for their immediate release.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei is the Director of Advocacy at the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and a prominent human rights defender. He was subject to repeated reprisals for his work by the Government of Bahrain, and since 2016 the authorities have pursued reprisals against his family members, intimidating his wife and prosecuting his in-laws.
In March 2017, as a consequence of his continued human rights work in the UK, his mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor Hassan, 49, brother-in-law, Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, 18, and cousin, Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor, 29, were arrested by Bahraini security forces and accused of planting “fake bombs” in Southwest of the capital Manama. They are currently detained in Bahrain facing trial on fabricated terrorism charges, based largely on coerced “confessions” extracted as a result of torture and other ill-treatment and “confidential sources”.
In the letter, MEPs echoed the concerns raised by six experts from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Amnesty International on the allegations of arbitrary arrest, torture and ill-treatment of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s in-laws and that their detention represents a clear “attempt to force him to halt his peaceful activities and muzzle him from afar”.
40 Members of the European Parliament – including MEP Julie Ward; MEP Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea, Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, and MEP Barbara Lochbihler, Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights who met Sayed Alwadaei in June 2015; MEP Claude Moraes, Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs; MEP Alessia Maria Mosca, Vice-Chair of the Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula – urge for an end to the continuing harassment and targeting of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s in-laws and call for their immediate and unconditional release. In addition, they call on the Government of Bahrain to drop the charges against them as they are based on false confessions extracted by force, and to ensure a full investigation and prosecution in relation to the reported cases of torture and ill-treatment.
They further urge Ms Mogherini to publicly condemn all acts of intimidation of dissent and to call for the release and the protection of all human rights defenders and their relatives.
The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights welcomes this initiative led by MEP Julie Ward and reiterates the letter’s appeal to HR/VP Federica Mogherini and calls on the EU to undertake a strong action on this issue.
Read the full text of the letter here or see below.
Ms. Federica Mogherini
High Representative for the Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and
Vice President of the European Commission
Rue de la Loi /Wetstraat 200
Brussels, 23 October 2017
CONCERN: MEPs CALL FOR END TO ARBITRARY DETENTION AND TORTURE OF UK-BASED ACTIVIST’S FAMILY DETAINED IN BAHRAIN
Dear High Representative Mogherini,
The European Parliament is seriously concerned about the Bahraini authorities’ ongoing targeting and intimidation of UK-based human rights defender, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, and his family, which includes arbitrary arrest, inhumane treatment, torture and death threats in retribution for his work. His brother-in-law, mother-in-law, and cousin have been detained and presented with fabricated terrorism charges, based largely on coerced confessions and “confidential sources”.
The European Union has long been committed to supporting human rights defenders, whom the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders describe as our “natural and indispensable allies in the promotion of human rights and democratisation in their respective countries”. The European Parliament resolution of 17 June 2010 stresses that “human rights defenders all over the world are crucial actors when it comes to the protection and promotion of basic human rights”. The resolution further condemns the human rights violations they face, as well as the harassment of the “immediate family members of human rights defenders, (including their children), and their other relatives, so as to prevent them from continuing their activities”.
In March 2017, as a retaliation to Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s human rights activity, Bahraini security forces arrested his mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor Hassan, 49, brother-in-law, Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, 18, and cousin, Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor, 29. After days of detention without official charge, officers accused the three individuals of planting “fake bombs” in January 2017. All three were reportedly tortured during their interrogations, which had no lawyers present, and claimed that security officers coerced them into confessing. They were also interrogated about Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s activities in the UK. We are particularly concerned that despite the prosecution’s lack of forensic evidence linking them to the alleged crimes, the three individuals remain in detention without bail. It is feared they will be sentenced on 30 October based on coerced confessions. Hajer Mansoor Hassan is currently being held in Isa Town Prison while Sayed Nizar and Mahmood Marzooq have been detained in Dry Dock Prison.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei is the Director of Advocacy at the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and a prominent human rights defender. He fled to Britain in 2012 after he was tortured and served six months in prison for taking part in demonstrations against the government in 2011. In January 2015, as punishment for his ongoing human rights activism, he was among a group of 72 Bahrainis whose citizenship the authorities revoked, rendering him stateless.
In March 2017, Human Rights Watch described the detention of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s in-laws as an apparent “campaign of retribution in response to his human rights work”, following on from the detention of his wife the previous year. On 26 October 2016, Mr Alwadaei’s wife, Duaa Alwadaei, and infant son were detained, ill-treated and interrogated at Bahrain Airport after Mr Alwadaei attended a protest against the King of Bahrain’s visit to London earlier that day. During the interrogation, which lasted seven hours, an officer asked Mrs Alwadaei: “Where shall I go first, shall I go to his family or your family?” They were only able to leave following intense international pressure and support particularly from the US Embassy in light of his son’s US citizenship. On their return to London in November 2016, the Bahrain Embassy in London announced that Duaa Alwadaei had been charged with assaulting a police officer. The Embassy said Mrs Alwadaei’s detention was based on Mr Alwadaei’s “history of being involved in and supporting terrorist acts”. He has never been presented with terrorism-related charges.
We, Members of the European Parliament, share the concerns raised by the six experts from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the allegations of arbitrary arrest, torture and ill-treatment of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s mother-in-law, brother-in-law and cousin, and the lack of due process in the criminal proceedings against them. We agree with the experts at Amnesty International that the detention of Mr Alwadaei’s in-laws is arbitrary and represents a clear “attempt to force him to halt his peaceful activities and muzzle him from afar”. The UN experts expressed “grave concern” that the actions were intended to “intimidate and impair the human rights activities” of Mr Alwadaei. They also note “significant grounds” to assume the three individuals may be subjected to further ill-treatment while in detention. We condemn the targeting of Mr Alwadaei’s family in retaliation to his cooperation with international human rights mechanisms, including his engagement with the European Parliament.
Despite calls from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Rapporteurs, and the European Parliament, the Bahraini authorities have dramatically intensified their campaign to silence dissenting voices, including those abroad. Between June 2016 and June 2017, at least 169 government critics or their relatives were arrested, tortured, threatened or banned from travel by the authorities. We reiterate here our grave concerns about the heightened crackdown on human rights defenders, political opposition, and civil society actors.
In light of the above, we therefore request that you and the European Union and its Member States urge the Government of Bahrain both publicly and privately to:
- put an end to the continuing harassment and targeting of the family of human rights activist Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei;
- immediately release Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, Hajer Mansoor Hassan and Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor;
- drop the charges against them as they are based on “confessions” extracted as a result of torture and other ill-treatment;
- ensure a full investigation and prosecution in relation to the reported cases of torture and ill-treatment of Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, Hajer Mansoor Hassan and Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor.
We ask the European Union and its member states to observe and attend the trial of these three individuals, the next hearing of which is 30 October. We further urge you to publicly condemn all acts of intimidation of dissent, including those abroad, and to call for the release and the protection of all human rights defenders and their relatives.
We look forward to hearing from you on these issues and stand ready to provide any further information you may require.
Julie Ward, S&D
Petras Austrevicius, ALDE
Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea, ALDE
Goffredo Bettini, S&D
Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, ALDE
Lynn Boylan, GUE/NGL
Klaus Buchner, Greens/EFA
Fabio Massimo Castaldo, EFDD
Mark Demesmaeker, ECR
Tanja Fajon, S&D
José Ignacio Faria, EPP
Neena Gill, S&D
Ana Maria Gomes, S&D
Anna Hedh, S&D
Jude Kirton-Darling, S&D
Philippe Lamberts, Greens/EFA
Barbara Lochbihler, Greens/EFA
Olle Ludvigsson, S&D
David Martin, S&D
Claude Moraes, S&D
Alessia Maria Mosca, S&D
Linda McAvan, S&D
Javier Nart, ALDE
Maria Noichl, S&D
Kati Piri, S&D
Soraya Post, S&D
Bronis Ropè, Greens/EFA
Lola Sanchez Caldentey, GUE/NGL
Judith Sargentini, Greens/EFA
Marietje Schaake, ALDE
Helmut Scholz, GUE/NGL
Alyn Smith, Greens/EFA
Barbara Spinelli, GUE/NGL
Bart Staes, Greens/EFA
Keith Taylor, Greens/EFA
Helga Trüpel, Greens/EFA
Marita Ulvskog, S&D
Angela Vallina de la Noval, GUE/NGL
Hilde Vautmans, ALDE
Marie-Christine Vergiat, GUE/NGL