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Bahrain: Acquittal of Policewoman Accused of Torturing Journalist

(Nov. 23, 2012) On October 22, 2012, the Grand Criminal Court in Manama, Bahrain, cleared a female police officer of wrongdoing. She had been charged with the torture of the female Bahraini journalist Nazeeha Saeed, who was held in police custody following anti-government protests last year. (Court Contradiction of Victim’s Statement with Medical Report [in Arabic], ALAYAM (Oct. 23, 2012).)

Saeed, a correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya, had been summoned to a police station for questioning in the city of Rifa’a, on May 22, 2011, according an account by Reporters Without Borders. During the interrogation, police officer Lieutenant Sarah Al-musa allegedly tried to force Saeed to confess to a crime by beating her, which resulted in physical injury to the victim, as detailed in a corroborating medical report. (Bahraini Policewoman Denies Torturing Journalist, Doha Center for Media Freedom (June 6, 2012); Court Contradiction of Victim’s Statement with Medical Report, supra.)

The arrest had taken place during a three-month period of “national safety,” established by decree in March 2011. (Press Release, Bahrain News Agency,HM King Hamad Declares State of National Safety (Mar. 15, 2011).)

The prosecution stated that it had referred the case to the “high criminal court because the defendant is a public servant in the ministry of interior and had used force against the victim to make her confess to a crime.” (Bahraini Policewoman Denies Torturing Journalist, supra.)

The Court found that there were discrepancies and contradictions in both Saeeds testimony and the medical report. Lieutenant al-Musa was the first female officer to be prosecuted before a civilian court for abuses carried out by the police during the crackdown on a popular uprising that began in February 2011. Her trial opened on June 6, 2012. (RSF/Bahrain Policewoman Acquitted of Torturing France 24 Correspondent, TRUSTMEDIA (Oct. 23, 2012).)

The journalist has announced that she intends to appeal the Court’s verdict. Saeed has also lodged a complaint against another policewoman and a male police officer, alleging torture and ill-treatment during the same period of custody, but thus far no action has been taken against either of them. (Id.)

Prepared by Luna Barakat, Law Library Intern, under the supervision of Issam Saliba, Senior Foreign Law Specialist.