By: Timothy Spence
Nearly three years after the Arab Spring spread to the small Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, journalist Nazeeha Saeed Hussain is still holding out for justice in the beatings she suffered at the hands of police officers.
The veteran correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo and France 24 was on the front lines covering the government’s deadly crackdown on protests that began in February 2011. Then, on May 22, she was ordered to appear at a police station. She and her lawyers say that after an initial interrogation, the journalist was repeatedly beaten by several police officers.
“I remember the first slap on my face, the humiliation I felt,” Saeed wrote in a personal recollection of the events published last month by the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) in London, one of the International Press Institute’s strategic partners. “I was blindfolded, beaten and had electric shock treatment. All the time, they were mocking me and accusing me of being a protester and lying in my reports. Eventually, 13 hours later, I was released after signing a document. I don’t know what was in it. I was so frightened, I just wanted to get out. I was in great pain and could hardly walk.”
After an international outcry, authorities in Bahrain tried one policewoman: Sarah Mohammed Issa al-Mousa. She was acquitted on Oct. 22, 2012, a verdict later upheld by an appellate court, despite concerns that the courts weren't thorough enough in weighing the evidence. Lawyers are now urging senior United Nations rights officials to investigate the handling of the Saeed case.
“There were clear factual errors in the written judgment of the Bahraini High Criminal Court, which raised doubts about the impartiality and independence of the court and the prospects of a successful appeal,” Nani Jansen, senior legal counsel for MLDI, argued in a Dec. 13, 2013 letter to Juan Méndez, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, and Rashida Manjoo, the U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women.
The letter, a copy of which was provided to IPI, continued: “Moreover, the Court of Appeal accepted evidence that it was possible that Ms Saeed’s injuries were inflicted by a third party with her agreement despite there being no indication in any of the medical evidence provided during the trial in the High Criminal Court that Ms. Saeed’s injuries were caused in such a way.”
Saeed’s legal team in June 2013 urged prosecutors to take the case to the Court of Cassation, the kingdom’s highest court, but she told IPI in an e-mail on Jan. 7 that nothing has happened. Meanwhile, the Bahraini journalist carries on her work for both France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo, as well as providing updates on other journalists who themselves report abuse at the hands of police on her busy Twitter feed.
Timothy Spence is IPI’s senior press freedom advisor for the Middle East and Africa. E-mail: tspence[@]freemedia.at