Bahrain: On the anniversary of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s arrest, call on Denmark to demand his freedom


This week marks several anniversaries for prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja who is serving a life sentence in Bahrain for his peaceful human rights activities since his arrest on 09 April 2011. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) asks supporters to join us and Al-Khawaja’s family in calling on the Danish government to urgently request the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Al-Khawaja, a Danish-Bahraini citizen, and allow him to travel to Denmark for medical treatment. Please take action to help #FreeAlKhawaja!

On 28 February 2023, Al-Khawaja suffered heart trouble and taken to the prison clinic where he was told he needed to urgently see a cardiologist. He was then taken by ambulance to a military hospital, but the authorities took him back to prison without allowing him to see a cardiologist. Despite announcing in the government newspaper that he would be taken to the doctor on 28 March 2023, following international protests, the authorities continue to deny him treatment while at the same time putting out false information about his health, both in local newspapers and internationally.

In a call on 06 April 2023, he told his daughter that he complied with all the regulations to go see a doctor, including wearing handcuffs, but he was still not taken. He said, “When I look at the full picture, I can only conclude that it is a kind of a slow death, they are trying to end our lives by not providing treatment and health care, and especially with the cases that are much worse than mine, and it seems this decision has been made at the highest levels.”

On 05 April 2023, Al-Khawaja turned 62 in prison. His family and the #FreeAlKhawaja support campaign made a social media campaign to raise awareness about Al-Khawaja and his impact on human rights activism around the world. They are sharing personal accounts from family and friends including his daughters Maryam and Zaynab, his wife Khadija Al-Moussawi, GCHR staff, and Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders, who called for his freedom.

Al-Khawaja was convicted in November 2022 in two cases related to his activism, including protesting against unjust treatment in Bahrain’s notorious Jaw Prison. GCHR is concerned that new charges have been lodged against Al-Khawaja at a time when there are expanded efforts to free him so he can receive medical treatment in Denmark, where he is a dual citizen. Among those efforts, we welcome the European Parliament’s urgency resolution calling for his release on 15 December 2022.

This week also marks the anniversary of the founding of GCHR on 06 April 2011. Al-Khawaja is one of GCHR’s Founding Director, the founder and former President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Front Line Defenders MENA Protection Coordinator. He won the Martin Ennals Prize in 2022, which inspired renewed efforts for his release by his family and supporters.

Take Action!

A. Join us and call on the Bahraini authorities to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and all other human rights defenders and activists imprisoned in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly;
  2. End the judicial harassment of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and adhere to international standards of law; and
  3. While he remains in prison, provide proper medical care including access to a licensed cardiologist with proper equipment to assess his heart condition.

Tweet tagging @BahrainMsnCH using the hashtag #FreeAlKhawaja

B. Join us and call on Danish authorities to urgently request the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Al-Khawaja and allow him to travel to Denmark for medical treatment.

Tweet tagging @DanishMFA using the hashtag #FreeAlKhawaja

C. Please follow the #FreeAlKhawaja social media accounts (Instagram,

Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Website), as well as Maryam Al-Khawaja's accounts (TwitterTikTok) to share and retweet any posts. You are also welcome to make your own post during the anniversaries (remember to use the hashtag #FreeAlKhawaja).