Bahrain: Bahrain: Zainab Al-Khawaja Continues to Face Judicial Harassment


The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) express their strong concern for the continued judicial harassment against peaceful activist and human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja, who is facing two court appointments tomorrow, 14 October, and one additional court date on 15 October. There are currently five cases against her in court; another eight cases have already been carried out either by Zainab Al-Khawaja having paid a fine, or serving time in prison.

This week, Zainab Al-Khawaja, who is almost nine-months pregnant, will attend court appointments related to three separate cases against her. Tomorrow, on 14 October, she will appear in court to face charges in two cases related to tearing a photo of the King. On Wednesday, 15 October, she will face charges for “insulting a public official.” She will attend the trial, but it should be noted that no sentence will be delivered during the court appointments this week.

In a continuation of this kind of judicial harassment, three additional charges were recently brought against Zainab Al-Khawaja based on an attempted visit to her father at Jaw Prison in August. The charges are related to ‘entering a restricted area’, ‘not cooperating with police orders’ and ‘verbal assault’. Zainab Al-Khawaja reported she attempted to visit her father, human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, in Jaw Prison on Thursday, 28 August 2014.  At the time, he was on a hunger strike, and his family was informed that he had collapsed on the floor in his prison cell. Zainab Al-Khawaja attempted to visit him in order to obtain an update on his health since medical professionals had also expressed concerns that he could suffer a heart attack at any moment.

Zainab Al-Khawaja was seven months pregnant at the time when she attempted to visit to her father. She reported that she entered through the main gate of the prison and walked to the building used for hosting visits, and saw no signs that indicated she was entering a restricted area; she was not stopped by the guards securing the perimeter of the prison grounds. Despite this, Zainab Al-Khawaja is being charged with having entered a restricted area. After reaching the visitor’s entrance, she was stopped by guards asking her reason for being there. She explained that she wanted to visit her father and make sure he was alive and well. She was informed by the guards that she had no right to do so, and the guards began filming her. They were joined by the Head of Prison, who was accompanied by a female police officer.  Orders were reportedly made to forcibly remove and arrest Zainab Al-Khawaja, and she immediately informed them that she was seven-months pregnant. There was a verbal exchange between the Head of Prison and Zainab Al-Khawaja, in which she was reportedly informed that the law was on the side of the officers, and that he took no responsibility for what may happen to her, or her unborn child.

Zainab Al-Khawaja was forcibly laid down on the ground, placed in hand cuffs and then transferred to Riffa police station where she was informed of the three new charges against her. She was later released the same day.

 Based on the above, the BCHR and the GCHR call on the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and all other allies of Bahrain to pressure the authorities to:

  • Drop all of the charges against Zainab Al-Khawaja and end the campaign of judicial harassment against her for her peaceful activism and for exercising her right to freedom of expression;
  • End the practice of targeting human rights defenders and activists for their work, and release the political prisoners in Bahrain.