Bahrain: Bahrain- Human rights defenders Abdulhadi and Zainab Al-Khawaja on hunger strike protesting their ill-treatment


 The Gulf centre for Human Rights (GCHR) received information that human rights defenders Abdulhadi and Zainab Al-Khawaja have started a hunger strike on 17 March 2013 protesting their ill-treatment.

The prisons authorities have tried to force Abdulhadi and Zainab Al-Khawaja to wear prison uniforms designed for convicted criminals which they refused as they are prisoners of conscience who were solely targeted for the peaceful exercise of their rights to free expression, association and assembly. The authorities persist in their ill-treatment and have decided not to allow them to have any visits. Abdulhadi and Zainab responded by starting a hunger strike demanding the authorities to respect all their rights as prisoners of conscience.

 Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is a prominent human rights defender and the main co-founder of the GCHR. On 22 June 2011, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was sentenced by the National Safety Court - a military court - to life imprisonment for his peaceful human rights activities. He is held in Jaw prison.

 Zainab Al-Khawaja is also a prominent human rights advocate and blogger. She is held in the women's prison, serving a three month sentence after a court of appeal overturned her earlier acquittal for the same offence. Zainab was found guilty of allegedly "insulting and humiliating a public employee."

Further reports received by the GCHR confirmed the deteriorated health of Abdulhadi and Zianab and their immediate need of medical treatment which is being ignored by the Bahraini authorities.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights urges the authorities in Bahrain to: 

1. Grant Abdulhadi and Zainab immediate and unfettered access to the medical treatment which they requires;

2. Grant Abdulhaid and Zainab immediate and unfettered access to family;

3. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Abdulhadi and Zianab;

4. Immediately and unconditionally free human rights defenders Abdulhadi and Zainab Al-Khawaja, and drop all the charges against them;

5. Carry out an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the reported ill-treatment of defenders Abdulhadi and Zainab Al-Khawaja, with a view to identifying those who are responsible, and bringing them to justice;

6. Ensure that all human rights defenders in Bahrain, carrying out their legitimate work in the defence work of human rights, are able to operate free of restrictions and reprisals.

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 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”.