Bahrain: Prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and other prisoners of conscience face reprisals


Reliable local reports confirmed that the Jaw Prison administration is currently targeting prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and other prisoners of conscience in Bahrain with reprisals. They are serving prison sentences handed down against them in courts that lack the minimum international standards for fair trial, and on charges that violate their rights to freedom of expression, solely for carrying out their peaceful and legitimate work in the field of human rights.

The Jaw prison administration has recently promoted a number of the perpetrators who have tortured prisoners of conscience in the past, and are now performing tasks that require their presence in the cells of their victims. Al-Khawaja and his fellow prisoners of conscience vigorously protested their presence.

One of those who was surprised to see the man who tortured him among the administrative staff of Jaw Prison was Zuhair Ashour, a prisoner of conscience.

On 17 September 2022, Al-Khawaja was cut off during a call with his family, and he was not allowed to obtain the necessary medical care in retaliation for his demand for his rights and the rights of his fellow prisoners. Among his demands is that the perpetrators of the crime of torture among the administrative staff of Jaw Prison should not be allowed to visit the prisoners' cells, and instead should be brought to justice.

Al-Khawaja also said in his phone call that, "This is the effect of impunity, as long as they are dealing with the approach of impunity and promoting the torturers instead of holding them accountable, the torture will not stop, the ill-treatment will not stop, and the prison conditions will remain as bad as they are."

Al-Khawaja, who co-founded the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), won the 2022 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders for his continued activism for prisoners’ rights. His supporters are calling for his release and ask you to follow the hashtag #FreeAlKhawaja and tweet your support starting on 20 September 2022.

GCHR declares its full solidarity with its founding director Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and prisoner of conscience Zuhair Ashour, and strongly condemns the ongoing violations by the Jaw prison administration of the civil and human rights of prisoners of conscience. The government of Bahrain should release all detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience, and fully implement the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) while they are in prison.

Noting that Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review is coming up in November 2022, GCHR further calls on the members of the United Nations Human Rights Council to press Bahrain to comply with its recommendations, and uphold its human rights obligations.