Bahrain has been found guilty by a UN body of arbitrarily detaining three relatives of a British-based human rights activist as a reprisal for his protest in London against the visit of the country’s king in 2017.
In a judgment published on Thursday, the UN called for all three to be released from detention and suggested evidence showed they had been victims of torture and false confessions.
The case raises questions about the extent to which the Foreign Office is willing to protect the right of exiles to protest in the UK, especially against Gulf States with which Britain has close links.
The ruling came from the UN’s working group on arbitrary detention, a subsidiary of the human rights council.
It said the trio were arrested without legal basis and arbitrarily detained without the use of an arrest warrant or legal representation. The judgment also found Bahrain did not undertake any credible investigation into allegations of torture of the detainees.
All three detained by the Bahrain government are related by birth or marriage to Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a Bahraini activist.
Alwadaei was given asylum in the UK in 2012 after being sentenced to six months by the Bahrain government for his role in protests against the royal family’s rule at the time of the Arab spring.
He has continued to demonstrate against British support for Bahrain’s rulers, including by protesting against the visit of the king to Downing Street in 2016.
The relatives were his brother-in-law Sayed Nazar Alwadaei, his wife’s cousin Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor and his mother-in-law, Hajar Mansoor Hassan.
In the finding, the working group said it was “persuaded that Sayed Nazar Alwadaei, Mansoor and Hassan were deprived of their liberty, interrogated and prosecuted for their family ties with Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, and that these were acts of reprisals. This is the only plausible explanation for the subversion of the equal protection of the law they have experienced.”
The judgment added that “no one should be detained for the crimes that may or may not [have been] committed by a family member”.
All three claim they were maltreated after their arrests. They were subsequently charged with terrorism-related offences, including planting or helping to plant fake explosives in January 2017, and sentenced to three years in prison.
They allege, according to the UN report, that they were interrogated as much about Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s movements in London as the crimes for which they had been charged. They also claim that no arrest warrants were provided and, on arrest, they were tortured.
Maya Foa, the director of the human rights organisation Reprieve, said: “As the world rightly condemns Bahrain for punishing family members of human rights activists, and British MPs stand up in parliament to demand action from the government, the Foreign Office continues to offer only vague, mealy mouthed expressions of concern.
“Britain has provided the Bahraini regime with millions of pounds in security assistance. The least the government can do is demand the end of the arbitrary detention of, and torture of, peaceful dissenters.”
Bahrain remains a pillar of the British and US alliance in the Gulf.
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