Home Page > News Item > BAHRAIN: writer and human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s life is in danger

RAN 18/12 – 18 April 2012

PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee is gravely concerned about the well-being of writer and prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja as he enters the 65th day of his hunger strike, begun on 8 February 2012 in protest at his detention and treatment. In an open letter, Al-Khawaja pledged to continue his hunger strike until “freedom or death.” PEN International urges the Bahraini authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Al-Khawaja and of all those currently detained in Bahrain solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions.

According to PEN’s information, human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, the founder of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, went on hunger-strike on 8 February 2012 to protest his unlawful arrest in April 2011. His health has severely deteriorated and his life is at risk. He was sentenced on 22 June 2011 to life imprisonment by a military court together with 20 other activists and human rights defenders.

On 23 April 2012, Al-Khawaja and 13 of the other activists will learn the outcome of an appeal hearing currently before the Court of Cassation.

According to Al-Khawaja’s family, he has been denied visits by his family and lawyer in the past several days. His wife says that Al-Khawaja spoke to them on the evening of 16 April stating that he had agreed to take Intra-Venus (IV) and other fluids after meeting the Danish ambassador to Bahrain. Earlier, his doctor told him that he might go into coma. During a 14 April phone call to his family from the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital, he said that he had asked to be transferred back to Jaw Prison because he claimed that the nurses and guards at the hospital were not treating him well. There are mounting concerns for his welfare.

Al-Khawaja, a former protection co-ordinator for the Irish human rights NGO Front Line Defenders, was arrested in April 2011 and accused of being one of the leaders of anti-government protests which began on 14 February 2011. He was tortured in custody and sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court in a grossly unfair trial in June 2011. Thirteen other activists and human rights defenders were sentenced along with him and jailed, while seven others were sentenced in absentia.

PEN International is among signatories to a letter of protest published in the UK Guardian on 9 April.

For further details see the joint appeal dated 17 April 2012 and another joint appeal dated 5 March 2012.

Background
Protests led by Bahrain’s majority Shia community against the government’s policies have been underway since mid-February 2011. The Bahraini security forces responded with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Dozens of civilians were killed and many more wounded. The Bahraini government declared a State of Emergency on 15 March 2011 and brought in troops from neighbouring Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia to help suppress dissent. The State of Emergency was lifted on 3 June 2011 but not all those arrested and charged under that law have not been released. Opposition sources estimate that some four hundred people are currently on trial for their support of the protests, and further arrests and demonstrations are continuing. An inquiry mandated by the King himself that was carried out by an international panel of human rights experts found police had used excessive force, and King Hamad has pledged reforms.

RECOMMENDED ACTION

Please send appeals:
Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Abulhadi Al-Khawaja and all those currently detained in Bahrain in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain is a signatory;
Urging the Bahraini authorities to allow him immediate access to all necessary medical treatment, regular family visits and lawyers;
Calling on the Bahraini authorities to independently investigate allegations of torture;
Urging the Bahraini authorities to implement the recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) which was established on 29th June 2011.

Send appeals to:
His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa
King of Bahrain
Office of His Majesty the King
P.O.Box 555
Rifa’a Palace
Kingdom of Bahrain.
Fax: +973 176 64 587

Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
P.O.Box 450
Al-Manama
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: +973 175 31 284

Dr. Fatima AL-Balushi,
Minister of Human Rights and Social Development, Acting Minister of Health
Ministry of Human Rights and Development
Manama
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: +973 17101955
email: pr@social.gov.bh

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Bahrain in your country if possible.

***Please contact this office if sending appeals after 15 May 2012***

For further information please contact Ghias Aljundi at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: ghias.aljundi@pen-international.org

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