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Bahraini female detainee on hunger strike to protest mistreatment

Rihanna Abdulla Al-Mosawi
Rihanna Abdulla Al-Mosawi


The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern due to the continued targeting of women for demanding their legitimate rights.

On 11 July 2013, the Fourth Criminal Court held its first session in the case of the 14 February Coalition cell, whereby a group of political, human rights and field activists face accusations. There are 49 of them in total, including one woman, 38-year-old detainee Rihanna Abdulla Al-Mosawi. BCHR issued a statement clarifying the legal breaches and violations practiced against the detainees in violation of their right to receive a public fair trial.

Al-Mosawi started a hunger strike on 18 July in protest of her ill-treatment. Earlier in July, for the first time, she revealed to Judge Ali Al-Dhahrani that she was stripped off her clothes twice while she was being interrogated at Riffa police station; however, the Judge merely noted down the complaint as "morally improper treatment". Al-Mosawi's family stated that she had decided to end her silence after being shocked by the developments at the Ministry of Interior. After being accused of assembling and questioned about that, the case turned into an accusation of plotting a terrorist bombing to target the Bahrain International Circuit for Formula One building. Later on, she was accused of contributing to establishing an organization whose aim is to disrupt the provisions of the Constitution, namely the 14 February Coalition. The lawyer Manar Makki mentioned that those present at Court cried when they heard Rihanna speak about the violations she faced, especially being interrogating by masked men who stripped off her clothes and threatening her with rape.

Despite the unanimous feeling of the members of defence that the detainees and defendants in the 14 February Coalition organization were subjected to physical and mental torture, starting from the moment and manner of arrest and all the way up to the trial's lack of the most basic human rights procedures which guarantees receiving a fair and public trial, the Ministry of Interior refused to admit this and denied that Al-Mosawi was subjected to torture and degrading treatment. The Ministry of Interior said in a statement, "the mentioned allegations are incorrect and have no basis of credibility". The Ministry of Interior claimed in its statement that the detainee had received several visits from her family and lawyers, "and none of them indicated at that time any sayings or statements related to the allegations that have been promoted on social media networks". In its statement, the Ministry ignored the fact that these allegations were made by the detainee directly in front of Court.

One of the members of the defence for the 14 February cell defendants accused the Ministry of Interior of lying in its statement relating to Al-Mosawi. In his personal account on Twitter the lawyer said in response to the Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior, "what the Undersecretary does not know is that the Public Prosecution did not agree to bringing Mrs Rihanna Al-Mosawi to assign a lawyer, and therefore the lawyer cannot request a visit to the detainee without the power of an attorney, and this is proof of the Assistant Undersecretary's lie". He added that what Al-Mosawi had said before Court is documented in the torture complaint report, whose result was later unknown, and that the detainee mentioned what had happened to her regarding the stripping off of her clothes, before the Renewal Judge as well, on 20 June. Moreover, the lawyers' commitment to silence during the past period is merely a commitment to the principle of professionalism contrary to the violation of this principle by the Public Prosecution by publishing information about the defendants in the media. This was done in collaboration with the judicial panels and Bahrain TV, even though the investigation of the torture allegation had not been completed and no decision to transfer the case to a competent court had been issued.

Since 18 July 2013, Al-Mosawi started a hunger strike in protest of the ill-treatment she has been subjected to at the detention center since she spoke of abuses in court. She informed her lawyer in a phone call that she is facing restrictions on access to phone calls and visits, as well as the type of food she needs. She noticed the change in treatment immediately after her statement in court on 11 July 2013, and she has complained to the prison administration but received no response; thus she decided to go on the hunger strike.

The Acting President of the BCHR, Maryam Al-Khawaja, condemned the Ministry of Interior's inclination toward denying and lying about the statements made by Al-Mosawi before the court regarding the violations she faced, instead of initiating a serious investigation in the incident that guarantees the detainee's rights.

The Head of Documentation and Monitoring at the BCHR, Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafda considered that stripping Al-Mosawi of her clothes during an interrogation at Riffa police station is conclusive evidence of what activists speak of regarding the systematic torture and the spread of impunity endorsed by the regime. Commenting on the Ministry of Interior's statement which denied Al-Mosawi's testimony, Al-Muhafda said that the statement reflects the state of weakness, tension and reaction that the regime and its leaders are going through.

The Ministry of Interior's statement is considered a bypass of the role of the judiciary in the investigation in the allegations submitted to the Court by the detainee, whereas the Ministry of Interior proceeded to discredit the allegations while the Court, which received her testimony, was supposed to investigate it, and this is an indication of the absence of the elements of fair trials in Bahrain.

This is not the first time that women in Bahrain are arrested and have their rights violated. The authorities previously arrested more than 240 women in various cases revolving around their inherent right to freedom of expression and for peacefully demanding their rights. Also imprisoned now are several women, among them Zainab Al-Khawaja, Siddiqa Al-Basri, Nafeesa Al-Asfoor, in addition to Al-Mosawi, while others wait for trials in malicious and fabricated cases.

Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands:

* the immediate and unconditional release of Rihanna Al-Mosawi;
* initiating a serious investigation into the torture complaints presented by Rihanna Al-Mosawi;
* holding accountable the violators who tortured Rihanna Al-Mosawi and bringing them to trial;
* putting an end to the targeting of women and the subjecting to arrests for demanding their rights
* releasing all detained women.

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