Bahrain: Suad Fathalla loses custody and her home in court ruling
"Inhumane verdict ends a series of rights violations against a woman struggling for her family in the Bahraini legal system - Victim being vilified only for exercising her right to freedom of speech"
A Sharia court ruling yesterday (June 20, 2007) left a young divorcee without her children and their shared home, following a more than a year-long court battle for custody and alimony. Suad Fathalla, 29, who has been the victim of a harassment campaign, since she spoke on Al Hurra television about her experience in Sharia courts , has lost custody of her three young children, and rights to the apartment which they currently share. The BCHR, along with the Women's Petition Committee, intend to support Ms Fathalla in challenging the ruling.
Ms Fathalla, the Emirati ex-wife of a Bahraini Interior Ministry employee, has been harassed and followed while embroiled in a court case for custody of her children. The ex-husband of Suad Fathalla, who has no relatives in Bahrain, had been trying to pressure her into giving up the apartment she shares with her children, and stopped providing alimony because of a judge's ruling.
Ten years after being married (at the age of 16) Ms Fathalla ended her marriage allegedly because her ex-husband was a violent and abusive drunk who used to beat her. She temporarily lost custody of her children after her ex-husband filed a court case against her accusing her of being a prostitute. Even though Ms Fathalla was acquitted of the charges the Sharia Court granted custody of the children to their father. In September 2006 Ms Fathalla's husband, who is a policeman, threatened her at gunpoint. She has also reportedly been physically assaulted by members of her ex-husband's family.
Speaking out against Sharia Courts and the lack of a Family Law - and Backlash
While speaking on Al Hurra television Ms Fathalla gave details of her case – she told how her eldest son chose not to live with his father. She also spoke about how he was told by an Interior Ministry employee that if he left his father he would be sent to a juvenile detention centre. She criticised Sharia Courts and politicised judges for their handling of the case and the Interior Ministry for failing to take any disciplinary action against their employee (her ex-husband) for his illegal actions.
A young divorcee has been abused and threatened for speaking out against Sharia courts, the Ministry of Interior, politicized judges and the lack of a personal status law. Since speaking out she has received death threats and anonymous phone calls.
"Of course we will support Suad in appealing against this inhumane ruling," BCHR vice president Nabeel Rajab said. The BCHR, along with the Women's Petition Committee took up Ms Fathalla's case in 2006. "This is clearly another tactic to silence critics of the Sharia courts system and the lack of a family status law," he added. "This is more than a verdict - it is a punishment for a woman who dared to speak out against a corrupt and powerful institution." The BCHR and the Women's Petition Committee condemn the court ruling, as well as attacks the harrassment of Ms Fathalla, who has been vilified for exercising her right to freedom of speech.
You can write a letter calling on Bahraini officials to:
*We call for the ruling to be overturned in the interests of Ms Fathalla's children, who have said in the past that they wish to live with their mother and to ensure that they remain in her custody.
*We call on the government to stop using the Public Prosecution and Sharia Courts as pressure tools to silence victims and activists.
*We call for the Kingdom of Bahrain to work towards developing an independent and honest judiciary that can be trusted to protect victims.
*We call on the Interior Ministry to take responsibility for dealing with their employee, Ms Fathalla's ex-husband, who has so far acted with impunity because of his position.
*We ask all international and local NGOs and human rights organisations to stand with Suad, and with us, in our demand for a written personal status law."
-BCHR and WPC
For further information contact Nabeel Rajab, Vice-President, BCHR, Manama, Bahrain, tel: +973 3963 3399 / 3940 0720, fax: +973 1779 5170, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com