Read the story of Zakeya Albarboori
On 17 May 2018 at approximately 3:00AM, the first night of Ramadan, roughly ten armed forces officers and plain clothed policemen from the Special Security Force Command (SSFC) raided Zakeya Albarboori’s home. The house had been surrounded with an abundance of security vehicles, including landing helicopters upon the roof. The officers inquired about the women in the house, asking specifically about Zakeya. They searched her room for ten minutes without allowing the family to enter. The officers then arrested Zakeya and took her to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). In addition, the officers seized Zakeya’s car despite the fact that her vehicle was not relevant to the alleged crimes. Neither a warrant for the search nor for the confiscation Zakeya’s items was provided, and her family was told to contact the CID for further information as to her whereabouts. Clearly, the circumstances of her arrest were excessive and performed for the sole purpose of intimidating Zakeya and her family.
The next day at approximately 4:00AM, the police conducted a second raid on her home, during which a family member maintained that the authorities had “terrorised” her entire household. The officers entered a room where three members of her family were sleeping, including a child who was allegedly awakened with a slap and ordered to leave the room. Another member of the family, who suffers from epilepsy, reportedly had had their chest kicked and beaten which induced seizures. After the police left, the family called an ambulance for medical assistance.
Zakeya was only allowed to call her family twice, once on 17 May and once on 21 May. After these two calls, her family did not hear or receive any information on her condition for approximately two weeks – prompting them to assume she had forcibly disappeared. Bahraini police interrogated Zakeya for six consecutive days following her arrest, where CID officers threatened to imprison her brothers and accused them of espionage. The officers stated that; if Zakeya failed to respond to their questions, her family members would “pay the price” and would be charged “even if [they] didn’t do anything.” The police the held Zakeya in solitary confinement (which is considered a form of mental torture) for 28 days, during which time she was subjected such immense pressure that she lost track of time. Throughout this period Zakeya’s family attempted to learn of her whereabouts, but the CID denied ever having her in their custody.
Zakeya was deprived of her liberty by government actors who refused to disclose her fate and whereabouts. Enforced disappearance places individuals outside the protection of the law and violates the right to liberty and security of the person; and the right to freedom from torture and other ill treatment, and can constitute a threat to the right to life.
On 6 June 2018, Zakeya stood before the Office of Public Prosecution (OPP) without a lawyer or prior notice, despite the fact that her lawyer previously informed the OPP that she was Zakeya’s legal counsel. This therefore constitutes a violation of Bahraini Law and article 14(d) under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which ensure the right to access to legal counsel.
Zakeya was charged with the possession of explosives, receiving funding from Iran, and membership of Tayar Al-Wafa Al-Islami (Al-Wafa). Al-Wafa is an unlicensed political opposition group which the Bahraini government considers a terrorist organisation under their counter-terrorism law. This law defines terrorism as an action “infringing public security or endangering the safety and security of the kingdom or of damaging national unity… [by harming] the environment, public health, the national economy, or public property, institutions, or facilities… or prevents or impedes public authorities, houses of worship, or institutes of learning from exercising their functions.” This is a overly broad and very vague definition of “terrorism”. In addition, it violates Bahrain’s obligations under the ICCPR which provides protection for freedom of thought, opinion and expression, assembly and association and the right to freedom from arbitrary detention.
Zakeya was not informed of the charges against her until her family visited her almost a whole month after her arrest. And from 6 June, Zakeya’s detention was extended for another month. Her detention was then extended regularly until her conviction. While imprisoned, Zakeya was denied the right to phone calls multiple times, which contravenes Bahrain’s own prison regulations. As article 36 of the regulations asserts that inmates should have the opportunity to meet with their family twice a month. In addition, Zakeya was harassed by prison officials and not granted any privacy when she was finally allowed to conduct telephone conversations. In fact, Zakeya later reported that a police officer would even sit rights next to her during all of her calls.
On 15 June 2018, Zakeya’s family was permitted to visit her at the Isa Town Women’s Detention Centre. However, they were subjected to lengthy visiting procedures, and visit itself was only limited to thirty minutes. They later reported that a female police officer was present throughout the visit.
Zakeya’s lawyer did not receive a formal indictment until her hearing on 31 January 2019, to which Zakeya was not allowed to attend. One week later, on 6 February 2019, Zakeya was brought before the court and convicted. She was sentenced to five years in prison and stripped of her Bahraini nationality, making her stateless. Moreover, Zakeya and Zainab Marhoon were the only Bahraini women since 2012 who have had their citizenship revoked. This revocation is a violation of her right to nationality, a contravention of a principle of international law and human right under the ICCPR and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Her conviction and five-year sentence were upheld on appeal on 27 May 2019.
On 21 April 2019, the King of Bahrain issued a Royal Order to restore the citizenship of 551 individuals, including Zakeya. Consequently, Zakeya’s family filed an extensive complaining that addressed: Zakeya’s arrest without warrant; the circumstances of her arrest; the undisclosed charges; and the unknown location of her interrogation and detention. The complaint was submitted to the Ministry of Interior (MOI) Ombudsman, as well as to the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR). To date, the family has not yet received any answer and hence these allegations remain unsolved.
Zakeya remains the last female political prisoner in Bahrain. Her detention and conviction are in violation of numerous conventions to which the state of Bahrain is legally bound to adhere to. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) strongly condemns the actions of Bahraini officials that abused Zakeya. ADHRB also condemns her unjust treatment, which clearly violates international fair trial standards. The Bahraini government must immediately release
Zakeya and provide her with compensation for her unjust imprisonment, as well as release all prisoners arrested and charged on spurious political charges.
Take urgent action on behalf of Zakeya Albarboori
Copy the following letter template or write an appeal in your own words and send it either to:
- The King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
The Al Khalifa family has reigned over the Kingdom of Bahrain since 1783. The self-declared king Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa is responsible for the increased restrictions against fundamental freedoms such as the freedom of expression, press, and assembly. He is also responsible for the state-wide crackdown on civil society. During the peaceful Arab Spring protests in February 2011, the military intervened under his order with brute force against protestors. He has since amended legislation which can prosecute individuals who live outside Bahrain based on their social media activities.
Address: HM Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
Office of HM the King
P.O. Box 555
Kingdom of Bahrain
2. The Attorney General of Bahrain Dr Ali bin Fadhel Al-Buainain
As Attorney General of Bahrain, it is Dr Ali bin Fadhel Al-Buainain’s duty to take immediate measures to ensure that this prosecution comes to an end. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Prosecutors (IPA).
Address: Public Prosecution,
PO Box 207, Manama,
Diplomatic Area, Kingdom of Bahrain,
3. The Interior Minister of Bahrain Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa
Sheikh Rashid oversees the Ministry of Interior (MOI), the government agency responsible for the vast majority of human rights abuses in Bahrain. Since 2011, ADHRB has documented and analyzed over 1,000 incidents of abuse comprising more than 3,000 specific rights violations attributable to MOI agencies, from arbitrary arrests and torture to rape and extrajudicial killings. These incidences could not occur without his knowledge and approval.
Address: P.O Box 13, Manama,
Kingdom of Bahrain[Address No.1/2/3]
I am writing to you to raise my concern about the ongoing arbitrary detention and safety of the last female political prisoner in Bahrain, Zakeya Albarboori. Her detention is a severe violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Bahraini Law, as Zakeya stood before the Office of Public Prosecution (OPP) without legal counseling. This is despite the fact that her lawyer previously informed the OPP that she was her legal counsel, thus resulting in the inadequate legal preparation of her defense. Furthermore, Zakeya’s enforced disappearance after her arrest on 17 May 2018, which placed her outside the protection of the law, violated the right to recognition as a person before the law; the right to liberty and security of the person; and the right to freedom from torture and other ill treatment.
Moreover, I am concerned about the fact that Zakeya’s family filed a complaint about her case with the Ministry of Interior (MOI) Ombudsman, as well as the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR). However up until the present date, her complaint has not been investigated and the allegations remain unsolved.
Zakeya was arrested without a warrant by roughly ten officers in plain clothing and armed forces from the Special Security Force Command (SSFC). They entered her home after surrounding it with an excessive number of security vehicles, including helicopters that landed on the roof at approximately 3:00AM. The circumstances of her arrest were entirely inappropriate and simply a performance for intimidation purposes. Equally concerning is Zakeya’s subsequent treatment in prison, as she was not aware of the charges against her until her family told her one month after her arrest.
Furthermore, arresting individuals under Bahrain’s counter-terrorism legislation is in itself highly unjust, as the definition of terriorism is overly broad and extremely vague. Moreover, it violates Bahrain’s obligations under the ICCPR, which provides protection for freedom of thought, opinion and expression, assembly and association and the right to freedom of arbitrary detention.
While I am aware that on the 17 March, Bahraini authorities released 1,486 prisoners as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Prominent human rights defenders, journalists, and opposition leaders—including Zakeya Albarboori—have so far been excluded from the releases. Previously arrested women’s human rights activists and defenders have all been released after either serving their prison sentence, exchanging their sentence for an alternative after having served more than half of the prison term, or by being pardoned. Zakeya Albarboori is the only female political prisoner still imprisoned.
In light of the unfair nature of Zakeya’s trial, the violent nature of her arrest, her enforced disappearance, her interrogation, her treatment in prison and during the trial, as well as the disproportionate charges against her, I urge you, in your role as the [King/Attorney General / Minister of Interior], to immediately and unconditionally release Zakeya Albarboori and drop the charges on which she is being investigated, as she is being detained solely in relation to the peaceful exercise of her rights.
Pending Zakeya’s release, I call on you to ensure she has access to adequate healthcare and means to communicate with her family and lawyers. I also ask you to ensure that the complaints related to her arrest without warrant, the circumstances of her arrest, and the fact that the charges of her arrest were undisclosed and the locations of her interrogation and detention were unknown ought to be thoroughly investigated. I finally urge you to immediately release all those detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly and take measures to protect the health of all prisoners amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.