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UPDATE: Bahrain: Health of Zainab Al-Khawaja and her baby at high risk in prison

2016-03-16

Human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja's family was able to visit her in prison today, 16 March 2016, for thirty minutes during which she gave them the details of what happened since her arrest two days ago.

According to reports received from the family by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), the treatment was bad on the first day. The police kept Al-Khawaja in Al-Hoora police station for over five hours, and she was carrying her 15-month-old son Abdulhadi the entire time. She had recently had a medical procedure on her leg so it was difficult. She requested food for Abdulhadi several times but they kept saying they had no food. She had also requested that they stop on the way to Al-Hoora police station to get food for Abdulhadi but they said no.

Al-Khawaja was then taken to the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) where she was kept for three hours. They refused to give her food for Abdulhadi there as well. She eventually found a vending machine and was able to buy only a chocolate bar to feed Abdulhadi. She arrived at the detention facility around midnight and gave him a cupcake. She said she couldn't stay in the cell they put her in as it was filthy. The guards said they would put her in the quarantine room where they keep inmates with contagious diseases, so she refused to go.

When she was moved to the Isa Town women’s prison the next day she had three bags with her things and her child’s. The officers refused to help her and told her she had to go back and forth from the entrance to the cell carrying Abdulhadi and one bag at a time, while five officers stood and watched. They brought a paper with rules and regulations and told her she had to sign it. She said she wouldn't sign anything before she read it, and she couldn't now as she had to put Abdulhadi to sleep. They said she was not cooperating and threatened to make a complaint. The officer in charge arrived and said that if she didn't want to sign it she shouldn't (and her treatment was better than the others.) 

Al-Khawaja is worried because the doctor at the MOI told her to make sure she doesn't give Abdulhadi any water in the prison that is not bottled, and that if she wants to give him fruits she has to only give him the inside and make sure he doesn't eat the outer layer. The cells are so dirty that Abdulhadi plays with ants in the cell. In the section of the prison she and Abdulhadi are held, there are women who have hepatitis C, and Al-Khawaja requested that she and Abdulhadi eat in the cell separate from the other inmates but the prison administration refused.

“The walls of this prison may be painted and the bars may be shiny but just like this government they try to hide the atrocities and try to make them look good,” Al-Khawaja said from prison.

Al-Khawaja is sentenced to a total of three years and one month in prison, on a variety of charges including two sentences for ripping a picture of Bahrain’s monarch and one year in prison for allegedly “insulting” a police officer. For more info see:http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1203

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

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