Bahrain: Testimony and Trial of Human Rights Defender and Co-Director of GCHR Maryam Al-Khawaja


On 1 October 2014, human rights defender and Co-Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) Maryam Al-Khawaja will appear before the High Criminal Court on trumped up charges relating to an alleged assault on a lieutenant and policewoman at the Bahrain International Airport. Read Maryam Al-Khawaja’s testimony here:

Al-Khawaja travelled to Bahrain on 30 August 2014 to visit her father, leading human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who was on hunger strike for a month in the infamous Jaw prison. Maryam Al-Khawaja was stopped and held at the airport as soon as she got off the plane.

Al-Khawaja describes how she was taken into a room in the airport after the lieutenant lied to her guaranteeing that she would not be mistreated. She says that ‘Within seconds Lieutenant Hayat jammed her knee above my right hip and grabbed my right arm… . [and] she started screaming at the three others [policewomen] to attack me and take my phone  … [including the policewoman] who later filed an assault case against me.’.

Despite the fact that Maryam Al-Khawaja did not respond to this use of force the four police women attacked and assaulted her, she tells how ‘Lieutenant Hayat yanked my right arm several times very roughly which I later on found out caused a tear in my shoulder muscle. When it was over, I was pretty roughed up and in pain all over; I had severe pain in my injured knee, right shoulder, neck, above my left hip and right leg where I had skid marks from their shoes.’

After the assault Maryam Al-Khawaja was detained until 18 September 2014, when she was released from prison pending her trial and a travel ban was imposed on her. For further information please see GCHR appeal dated 18 September 2014 (

Maryam Al-Khawaja is a non-violent human rights defender who is known for courageously promoting human rights through the use of peaceful means. The GCHR believes that the charge of assaulting a police officer is totally fabricated and is solely linked to her human rights activities in defence of people's rights in Bahrain. Al-Khawaja’s lawyer informed the GCHR that due to the unprecedented move of changing Maryam Al-Khawaja’s case from Lower Court to Higher Court, she now faces a sentence between three to seven years in prison.

The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters;” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.