Activist's claims 'must be probed'
By Rebecca Torr
AN international human rights organisation is calling on the Bahrain government to investigate claims that activist Ghada Jamsheer is being harassed by state security forces. Front Line, which works to protect human rights defenders at risk, said after carrying out its own investigation it had become deeply concerned over an alleged harassment campaign against the Bahraini women's rights activist.The Dublin-based organisation says the Women's Petition Committee president is reportedly under surveillance by state security.It is alleged that security officials entered her home while she was out of the country from November 14 to 17 last year and took photographs - though it could not provide evidence of this, when asked by the GDN.Security forces are reportedly carrying out surveillance on Ms Jamsheer's house phone, mobile phone and email account and she has apparently received many threatening SMS messages, says Front Line.Ms Jamsheer and her family have allegedly been threatened and followed in a car and men in civilian clothes have gone to her house and shouted abuses at her.She has also reportedly been accused of attacking officers performing duties and has been prevented from accessing the media."Front Line is concerned that the harassment campaign and the media ban on Ms Jamsheer is directly related to her legitimate work in defence of human rights, in particular women's rights in Bahrain and that it may form part of an ongoing campaign against human rights defenders in the country," states a Front Line Press release. "Front Line is seriously concerned about the physical and psychological integrity of Ms Jamsheer, as well as that of her family.According to the release, "Front Line urges authorities in Bahrain to:1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the harassment against Ms Jamsheer and her family, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological security and integrity of Ms Jamsheer and the members of her family;3. Guarantee, in all circumstances, that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment."Front Line member Khalid Ibrahim told the GDN from Dublin that they would be sending a letter to the Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and the Justice and Islamic Affairs and Interior ministries today.He said they had been conducting investigation into reports of harassment against Ms Jamsheer for a couple of years.They had sources based inside and outside of Bahrain and was in touch with international human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the UN."We check with different institutions and when we feel the information is reliable take action, like we have done in this situation," said Mr Ibrahim."We trust Ms Jamsheer, no-one is going to create stories like this, we believe her situation is real. "She is not acting on behalf of any political party - she is defending women's rights. I believe we have an obligation to support her."Mr Ibrahim said especially now that Bahrain was a member of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, it was important it showed evidence of supporting human rights.He called on the government to form a committee to investigate the allegations and to publish results."She (Ms Jamsheer) is a peaceful woman and she is not allowed to write to the media and this is against freedom of expression. She is entitled to have her rights," added Mr Ibrahim.Front Line is the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.The organisation was founded in Dublin in 2001 to protect human rights defenders at risk, people who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Front Line aims to address protection, networking, training and access to international bodies that can take action on their behalf.Front Line has Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN. For more information about Front Line visit: www.frontlinedefenders.orgThe Interior Ministry did not respond requests for a comment yesterday and Ms Jamsheer was unavailable. firstname.lastname@example.org