The signatories call on Bahrain to ensure that human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is allowed adequate medical treatment, as well as the right to access and respond to allegations made by the Government of Bahrain in a response to a UN communication.
In a joint communication made public on 4 May 2023, six UN experts – including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, and the Vice-Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mumba Malila – expressed their utmost concern at the continued arbitrary detention of human rights defender Mr. Al-Khawaja.
The UN communication addresses troubling allegations of torture, ill treatment and poor prison conditions of Mr. Al-Khawaja, including intimidation, restriction of communication with family, deprivation of basic rights, including his inability to give power of attorney to his lawyer in court, as required, shackling of hands, despite doctors’ orders to the contrary, as well as fabrication of cases against him and other political prisoners in Bahrain.
The UN communication was sent to the Government of Bahrain on 17 February 2023 and remained confidential for 60 days, as is UN protocol. The Government of Bahrain replied to the six UN experts on 17 April 2023, which was recently translated and made publicly available.
The Government of Bahrain’s response denies that Mr. Al-Khawaja has been subject to torture. This is contradicted by findings from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which was established by the King of Bahrain and medically documented that Al-Khawaja was subjected to torture and sexually assaulted by security forces in 2011. Furthermore, the Government of Bahrain’s response fails to adequately recognize Mr. Al-Khawaja as a human rights defender or acknowledge the arbitrary nature of his detention.
On more than one occasion, Mr. Al-Khawaja attempted to receive information over the phone about the nature of the UN communication, including the Government of Bahrain’s response, but the calls were systematically cut by the authorities. Therefore, Mr. Al-Khawaja officially requested through his lawyer that he be allowed a hard copy of the mentioned documents. The signatories call on Bahrain to ensure that the request is honored.
In addition, Mr. Al-Khawaja has continued to be repeatedly denied access to a cardiologist, as well as other appointments with relevant doctors, despite being at risk of a heart attack or stroke at any time. As recently as the past two weeks, Mr. Al-Khawaja was denied two medical appointments, the most recent being on Thursday 11 May 2023.
Since 9 May 2023, Mr. Al-Khawaja has protested in the yard of Jaw Prison on a daily basis holding up two signs in front of the CCTV cameras stating “Treatment prevention is slow systematic killing” and “You commit torture and prevent treatment” in order for him and his fellow prisoners of conscience to be allowed his necessary medical appointments. He informed his family on 14 May 2023 that he has suspended his protest temporarily due to promises made by the prison administration to improve conditions and allow access to adequate treatment.
The signatories call on the Government of Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, as well as all other prisoners of conscience.
- Ensure that Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is taken to the necessary medical appointments for diagnostics and treatment.
- Ensure that Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja obtains the requested documents related to the UN communication and that he is allowed a written response.
- The #FreeAlKhawaja Campaign
- Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
- Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
- European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
- Global Citizen
- Rafto Foundation for Human Rights
- Danish PEN
- The Martin Ennals Foundation
- Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
- Front Line Defenders
- DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture
- Freedom House
Images: The #FreeAlKhawaja Campaign