Leading Bahraini human rights activist Hussein Jawad Parveez has been arrested and taken to a prison where it is believed he is being tortured.
In an exclusive interview, Clarion Project spoke to his wife, fellow human rights activist Asma Darwish, who has previously been featured on ClarionProject.org.
Jawad is the chairman of the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights, which publishes information about human rights abuses in the Kingdom of Bahrain. He was arrested in a raid on his house on Monday, February 16 at around 1:30 am local time by masked police officers.
Accompanied by riot police and armored vehicles, they raided his home where he was with his wife and two-year-old son. Officers reportedly had a search warrant and confiscated Jawad’s mobile phone and passport before taking him away in handcuffs. He was prevented from even changing his clothes.
Jawad was arrested in November 2013 and released in January 2014 on bail pending trial on charges of “insulting the king and inciting hatred against the political regime of Bahrain.” He has long been an activist for peaceful and democratic change and for freedom of expression.
The following is Clarion Project's interview with Darwish the day following the arrest:
Clarion Project: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. We hope that you will be reunited with your husband soon.
Was your husband particularly politically active in the days leading up to his arrest? Do you have any idea what might have triggered the arrest?
Asma Darwish: Thank you. Hussain has continued his work as a human rights activist and, as you may be aware, the fourth anniversary of the very special occasion 14 February was couple of days ago, the day in 2011 when the Arab Spring first came to Bahrain, and we first saw national protests. The regime has continued targeting human right activists in parallel to politicians and other opposition parties.
I would expect that this occasion has triggered the arrest. Hussain has always been calling for peaceful movement for the people to acquire their basics human rights.
What type of human rights activism was your husband involved in?
Darwish: Hussain is the chairman & founder of the European Bahraini Organization for Human Rights (EBOHR). EBOHR's main activities are lobbying and advocacy, as well as monitoring and recording human rights violations, supporting victims morally and exposing governmental abuses of power.
Clarion: Does he have access to a lawyer? Do you know where he is being held and how he is being treated?
Darwish: I know he is being held in the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), which is notorious for being a torture center. I only received a call from him 11 hours after his arrest. The call lasted for just a few seconds whereby he was told to tell me that he is fine! When I tried to get more information from him by asking him if he was being harmed, he slowly whispered, “Yes” and then the call went dead.
This is very worrying, especially having experience about the way arrest cases are handled in Bahrain, and the way interrogations take place in CID where they extract false confessions under torture and ill-treatment.
There are no rights whatsoever for any detainee to have access to a lawyer in the CID; we hope though that Hussain will be released shortly, nonetheless, as I speak everything is unknown and there is no access for Hussain to his lawyer.
I am very concerned and worried for him. I hope he is safe, though his voice in that call appeared very weak and in pain.
Clarion: Are you still in Bahrain? Do you fear for your own safety?
Darwish: Yes, my two-year-old son, who recently had to undergo open heart surgery, and I are in Bahrain, and we definitely fear for our own safety. The regime has authority to implement action and, in fact, can perform any step against Hussain's immediate family.
Clarion: Is your husband a Shiite? If so was his arrest connected to the ruling government's sectarian policies?
Darwish: Yes, Hussain is a Shiite. The uprising and instability in Bahrain were triggered by both Shiite and Sunni opposition groups, however, as a result of its demography, the Bahraini government has always tried to describe the movement of the people as purely by Shiites who want to gain control of the country. To conclude, the vast majority of the arrests are from Shiite society, but the movement of those who oppose the regime is not sectarian.
The campaign on behalf of Hussein Jawad Parveez is being led by his own organization EBOHR.
The official statement from EBOHR condemning the arrest reads:
"The European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR) believes that the government’s targeting of Mr. Hussain Jawad is part of a systematic persecution of Bahraini human rights defenders aimed at institutionalizing fear and reducing the activity of human rights organisations working on and in Bahrain. The EBOHR asserts that the continuation of harassment against its chairman, Mr. Hussain Jawad, is in explicit violation of international human rights conventions Bahrain declared to commit to.
"EBOHR calls on the allies of Bahrain: the United States, the United Kingdom and the European states, alongside the United Nations and international human rights organizations to pressure on the government of Bahrain to stop targeting human rights defenders. EBOHR calls the government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release EBOHR Chairman Mr. Hussain Jawad. EBOHR urges the government of Bahrain to respect the international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."