Bahrain: Zainab Al-Khawaja sentenced to years in prison


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) condemns the sentencing of human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja to over four years in prison this month.

On 4 December 2014, Zainab Al-Khawaja 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. She has paid a 100 BHD bail to remain out of prison until her appeal for that charge on 15 June 2015, and if the sentence is upheld then, she will be imprisoned for three years and made to pay the fine.

Additionally, on 9 December 2014, Zainab Al-Khawaja had three hearings. The first dealt with the case of allegedly “insulting a public officer,” in which she was sentenced to one year in prison. The two other hearings dealt with the charge of  “destroying public property” and resulted in upholding a previous four-month sentence. None of these sentences allow bail, which means that she will be arrested any time now.

To add to that, on 10 December, Zainab Al-Khawaja received a new court summons for 18 February 2015. This new case is based on her arrest in August 2014 after attempting to seek information about her father at Jaw prison. The charges in this case are allegedly “insulting a police officer,” “trespassing” and “not following police orders.” To read her testimony about this incident:

Zainab Al-Khawaja, who recently gave birth on 27 November 2014, has been the subject of on-going judicial harassment as she continues to promote and protect human rights in Bahrain as well as calling for the release of her father, jailed human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. (For further information see GCHR appeal dated 21 October 2014:

The GCHR expresses serious concerns at the continuous judicial harassment against Zainab Al-Khawaja and believe it to be a direct result of her peaceful human rights activities and an attempt to hinder her calls for the promotion and protection of human rights and the release of her father.

The GCHR urges the authorities in Bahrain to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Zainab Al-Khawaja;
  2. 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. 

The GCHR respectfully reminds Bahrain 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 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): “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.”