Bahrain: Bahrain: Update in relation to human rights defenders Zainab Al-Khawaja and Maryam Al-Khawaja, daughters of imprisoned Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja



The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses serious and on-going concern at the treatment and judicial harassment of human rights defenders Zainab Al-Khawaja and Maryam Al-Khawaja.

Zainab Al-Khawaja has been the subject of on-going judicial harassment as she continues to promote and protect human rights in Bahrain and call for the release of her father, jailed human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. On 19 October 2014, while she was already in detention, a further charge was brought against her in relation to ‘insulting a public official’.   (For further information see GCHR appeal dated 20 October 2014

She was released on 19 November 2014 and gave birth on 27 November 2014. Zainab Al-Khawaja is due to be sentenced on the charge of ripping a picture of the Bahrain monarch on the 4th of December and she is scheduled to appear before the Court for sentencing in relation to three charges on 9 December 2014.

Maryam Al-Khawaja, co-director of the GCHR, was sentenced to one year imprisonment on 1 December, following trumped up charges relating to an alleged assault on a lieutenant and policewoman at the Bahrain International Airport. On 30 August she flew to Bahrain to visit her father who was on hunger strike and she was promptly stopped and detained when she got off the plane. Al-Khawaja released a statement yesterday detailing her decision to boycott the sentencing hearing:

The GCHR expresses serious concern in relation to the baseless charges and judicial harassment against its Director of Advocacy in particular as following her sentencing she will be at risk of being arrested in any country that has a security agreement with Bahrain.

The GHCR believes that the judicial harassment of Zainab and Maryam Al-Khawaja is directly related to their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities and constitutes an attempt to hinder this work.

The GCHR urges the authorities in Bahrain to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Zainab Al-Khawaja and Maryam Al-Khawaja;
  2. 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, recognises 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 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): “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.”