Bahrain: Update: Bahrain: Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja suspends hunger strike following strong UPR recommendations
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the news that Founding Director Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has suspended his hunger strike on its 24th day following strong recommendations during Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations. GCHR reiterates its calls to allow him unfettered access to medical care and free him immediately.
On 05 May 2017, Al-Khawaja said, “Due to the mentioning of the issues for which I began the hunger strike (the continuation of arbitrary arrests and the conditions in Jaw prison) in the Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain in Geneva, I have decided to suspend the hunger strike pending the implementation of the recommendations. I would also like to thank the Danish Foreign Ministry, the Danish Ambassador in Riyadh, and Mr. Rasmus of the Danish Embassy for their continued concern in regards to my health and wellbeing.”
Among the 176 recommendations in the UN Working Group’s UPR report on Bahrain, is one from Denmark to “Release all arbitrary detained persons in Bahrain, including the Danish-Bahrain citizen Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja a victim of torture who needs treatment and rehabilitation.”
The UPR report also includes other recommendations such as to “provide effective remedy for victims of arbitrary arrests, detention, summons or travel bans.” It has several recommendations about free expression and the work of human rights defenders, including to “Take urgent steps to facilitate the work of civil society and human rights defenders, and guarantee protection of all persons from intimidation or reprisals for seeking to cooperate with the UN (Ireland);” and to “Release as soon as possible all individuals, including human rights defenders, having been imprisoned solely due to exercising their fundamental rights of expression and assembly (Norway).” See the report at: https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/bahrain/session_27_-_may_2017/a_hrc_wg.6_27_l.1.pdf
On 12 April, Al-Khawaja began an open ended hunger strike with water only to protest the degrading treatment and deteriorating situation inside the prison as well as the ongoing arbitrary arrests and detention. Al-Khawaja, who is also the founder and former President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), is among a group of prisoners known as the “Bahrain 13” who were sentenced to prison in 2011 for their human rights and pro-democracy activities. He is serving a life sentence in Jaw prison.
During the hunger strike, Al-Khawaja’s health suffered greatly and he lost weight. It is unknown how much due to the fact that he refused to go to the hospital if they would only take him in handcuffs. On 20 April, he decided to take some liquids to prevent the authorities from force-feeding him if he lost consciousness. Al-Khawaja is also still in need of urgent access to medical care to prevent lasting vision loss. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1569
On 07 May, GCHR’s Special Advisor on Advocacy Maryam Al-Khawaja said, “Just spoke to my dad. He sounds a lot better, and said he's recovering well. He asked me to thank everyone who supported him in his hunger strike and stood with him in solidarity.. so, thank you!”
In a joint submission to the UPR’s 27th session working group, GCHR, BCHR and CIVICUS highlighted Bahrain’s targeting of human rights defenders, journalists, and others. The joint submission called attention to the extreme restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly in Bahrain and the failure of the authorities to implement recommendations related to freedom of expression that Bahrain had accepted in the last UPR cycles. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/report/view/61
GCHR asks supporters to please tweet in English or Arabic calling on the authorities in Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally free Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja from prison;
- While he remains in prison, allow Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja unhindered access to medical care, without the use of handcuffs or restraints; and
- Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
Use the hashtag #FreeAbdulhadi
Minister of Interior
Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa