Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Joint Letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

Ms. Margaret Sekaggya
Special Representative of the Secretary General for Human Rights Defenders
Room 1-040, c/o UHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10

Subject: Harassment of women’s human rights defender, Ghada Jamsheer

January 28, 2009

Dear Madam:

The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network is deeply concerned by the recent harassment campaign taken against Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, a woman human rights defender. Ghada Jamsheer is the president of the Women's Petition Committee, an organization which campaigns for the rights and dignity of women in the shari'ah family courts.

While Ghada Jamsheer was attending the AWID (Association for Women's Rights in Development) conference in South Africa between 14 and 17 November 2008, her home was reportedly entered by a state security agent and detailed photographs were taken. Her house phone, mobile phone, and email account are reportedly under surveillance.

Ghada Jamsheer and her family have also received threats, including many threatening text messages, and have been followed by a car. State security agents in civilian clothes have been sent to Ghada Jamsheer's house to shout at her using abusive language. She has been accused of attacking officers performing their duties and has been prevented from accessing the media. In addition, we have learned that Ms. Jamsheer’s mother and sister have had court cases brought against them, which we are concerned is directly linked to her defense of human rights.

We are concerned that the harassment campaign and the media ban against Ghada Jamsheer are directly related to her legitimate work in the defence of human rights, in particular women's rights in Bahrain, and that this may form part of an ongoing campaign against human rights defenders in the country. We are seriously concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Ghada Jamsheer, as well as that of her family.

We urge the authorities in Bahrain to:

1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the harassment against Ghada 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 Ghada 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 human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

We appreciate your attention to this serious matter.

Sincerely yours,

Women Living Under Muslim Laws – International Solidarity Network
Front Line - International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Human Rights First
Center for Women’s Global Leadership
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Forward – Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD)
BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights
International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW – Asia-Pacific)

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