Bahrain: Women human rights defenders Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer facing years in jail


In June 2015, two women human rights defenders have been sentenced to prison in Bahrain in direct violation of their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Both Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer have been sentenced to prison in the pursuit of their peaceful human rights activities.

On 2 June 2015, activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to another nine months in prison, in a case in which she was charged with entering a restricted area. The sentence was suspended pending appeal on payment of 500 dinars (approx. USD$1325). She now has a total of five years and one month in prison sentences hanging over her head. This latest case is related to her attempts to visit her father Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja last August, and is just one of her many cases. On 4 December 2014, she was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 3000 BHD (approx. USD$7960) on the charge of ripping a picture of the Bahrain monarch during a court hearing in October 2014. The appeal for that charge is on 15 June 2015. Then on 9 December 2014, Al-Khawaja had three hearings when she was sentenced to one year in prison for allegedly “insulting a public officer.” A four-month sentence for “destroying public property” was upheld.

None of these sentences allow bail, which means that there’s a risk of arrest every time she goes out and she can’t visit her father in prison. In the meantime, Al-Khawaja’s baby is being denied a birth certificate so there is no official paperwork to confirm his existence, and her own passport has also not been renewed, as a form of harassment.

Al-Khawaja has already spent many months in jail, including last year, shortly before giving birth in November. “No one has caused severe discomfort to the government of Bahrain or any of its authorities like the human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja has,” wrote GCHR Co-Director Khalid Ibrahim in a tribute to the Al-Khawaja family. Read the full article here:

On 9 June 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court sentenced women’s rights defender Ghada Jamsheer to one year and eight months in prison for “insulting” on twitter the management at King Hamad hospital after she accused them of corruption last year and she remains free on 400 BHD Bail(Approx. USD$800). She was arrested on 14 September 2014 after ten complaints were filed against her by Salman Attiyat Allah Al-Khalifa a member of the Bahrain ruling family who is the head of the hospital, his wife Dalal Hassan Eisa and Khaled Shael. On 15 December 2014, she was released from the Isa Town Detention Centre for Women after spending more than three months in detention on defamation charges.   

Jamsheer faces a travel ban and continuous judicial harassment. On 5 May 2015, Jamsheer was sentenced to one year in prison (suspended for three years) by the High Criminal Court in a related case in which she was charged with allegedly assaulting two police women, when she was detained in September 2014.

On 14 March 2015, Jamsheer was informed by the security office at Bahrain International Airport that a travel ban has been imposed by order of the Office of the General Prosecutor, as a result of the assault charges. She was on her way to get medical treatment in France. She had no prior knowledge of this particular charge until she was stopped at the airport. Her case is similar to that of Maryam Al-Khawaja, GCHR Co-Director, who was falsely accused of assaulting a police woman during her arrest in August 2014, when she arrived in Bahrain to visit her father. She was sentenced in absentia to a year in prison in December 2014. 

The GCHR expresses its concern about the ongoing judicial harassment of women human rights defenders in Bahrain and calls on the authorities to:

  1. Overturn prison sentences handed down against Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer, in all these cases that contravene international law;
  2.  End the judicial harassment of Zainab Al-Khawaja; provide a birth certificate to her son and renew her passport;
  3. Lift the travel ban imposed on Ghada Jamsheer and end the judicial harassment against her;
  4. Release all human rights defenders in Bahrain immediately and ensure their protection from any harassment, torture, and persecution in relation to their peaceful human rights activities.