Bahrain: Bahrain: GCHR Co-Director Maryam Al-Khawaja released, but still faces charges and remains under travel ban



On 18 September 2014, human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja, co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), was released from prison. Reports received by the GCHR confirmed that a travel ban has been imposed on her and a guarantee of a residing address was required as a condition of her release. She still must appear on 1 October 2014 before the High Criminal Court for allegedly assaulting a police officer at the airport.

Maryam Al-Khawaja, who is a Danish-Bahraini citizen, travelled to Bahrain on 29 August 2014 in an attempt to visit her father, leading human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is currently on day 25 of his hunger strike in the infamous Jaw prison; his life is in grave danger. Upon Maryam Al-Khawaja’s arrival in Manama, at around 1AM local time the next day, authorities arrested her just outside of the airplane.

“We are delighted that Maryam has been released from prison, but she should never have been jailed in the first place. It’s preposterous to think that Maryam, a strong proponent of non-violence and peaceful advocacy, could be guilty of assault,” said Kristina Stockwood, Chair of the GCHR Advisory Board. “Clearly these charges are being used as a means to curtail her freedom and attempt to silence her.”

“We call on the government of Bahrain to immediately drop the charges and free her without conditions,” said Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR Co-Director. “Abdulhadi should also be freed, along with other wrongfully detained human rights defenders who have been targeted as a result of their peaceful and legitimate activities in defence of human rights,” he added.

Maryam Al-Khawaja is a well-known human rights advocate who has travelled the world, working tirelessly to gather support to promote democracy and freedom in Bahrain and the Gulf, gaining many international allies, as witnessed by statements from the United Nations and 155 NGOs calling for her freedom. The GCHR is concerned that the charges and the travel ban imposed on Maryam Al-Khawaja form part of an ongoing trend of targeting human rights defenders by the government in Bahrain.

The GCHR calls on the authorities in Bahrain to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against Maryam Al-Khawaja and remove the travel ban imposed upon her, in addition to refraining from targeting or harassing her;
  2. Free all prisoners of conscience, including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and other human rights defenders detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly.
  3. 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 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 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, 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.