Danish-Bahraini Citizen and renowned human rights defender Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja begins hunger strike after facing serious medical negligence
The prominent Danish-Bahraini human rights defender and prisoner of conscience Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, who has been arbitrarily detained in Bahrain since 2011 after leading peaceful protests calling for fundamental freedoms and rights in Bahrain, began a hunger strike on Wednesday 9 August.
During a phone call with one of his daughters Mr. Al-Khawaja explained his hunger strike:
“The hunger strike is in protest against the continuation of my detention. But also specifically in protest of the denial of medical treatment. Keeping in mind a lot of the health issues are caused or were made worse because of the torture I was subjected to.
Today was the 11th appointment in 5 months that they [Bahraini authorities] have not taken me to. My last meal was yesterday at 6 PM, and this strike is water only. I will not be taking any kind of other fluids, including glucose or IV.”
Denial of adequate medical treatment
Mr. Al-Khawaja has continued to be repeatedly denied access to adequate medical treatment. This includes access to a cardiologist despite being at risk of a heart attack or stroke at any time. As recently as Monday 7 August 2023, Mr. Al-Khawaja was not taken to a planned heart appointment, because the prison administration insisted that Al-Khawaja was to be transported handcuffed in an armoured vehicle – a violation to the Mandela Rules (Rule 73, 2-3).
Today, on Wednesday 9 August Al-Khawaja was denied an appointment with an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) for treatment to his worsening glaucoma. Al-Khawaja was confirmed with glaucoma in early 2023 – after several prior concerns were raised by Amnesty International. Al-Khawaja informed one of his daughters this week that his eye condition needs constant monitoring; including examination devices at a certified ophthalmologist in order to determine how to control the glaucoma. The deliberate medical negligence and ignorance of Al-Khawaja’s several health conditions is a violation to the Mandela Rules (Rule 27).
Statement by Maryam Al-Khawaja, daughter: “With this hunger strike my father is making a life attempt to be treated with humanity and decency by Bahrain. My father is a torture survivor, a prisoner of conscience and UN-declared arbitrarily detained. He should never have been imprisoned to begin with, but 12 years later we are still fighting to ensure he is given access to adequate medical treatment for conditions mostly caused by the Bahrain regimes own torture. My father is fighting for Baharin to live up to the absolute bare minimum rules laid out by the UN’s Mandela Rules and we urge the international community to ensure this. My father and all other prisoners of conscience in Bahrain must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
- Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja is a prominent Danish-Bahraini human rights defender who was detained in 2011 in Bahrain after leading peaceful protests calling for fundamental freedoms and rights in Bahrain. Almost 12 years later, he remains at Jau Prison facing dire prison conditions and systematic denial of medical treatment.
- In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry documented that Al-Khawaja was subjected to torture and sexually assaulted by security forces in 2011.
- In a joint communication made public on 4 May 2023, six UN experts – including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, and the Vice-Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mumba Malila – expressed their utmost concern at the continued arbitrary detention of human rights defender Mr. Al-Khawaja.
- On April 3, 2023 the UN Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern about the deteriorating health of Mr. Al-Khawaja, calling on the Bahrain government “to provide urgent medical care & immediately release him”.
- On May 16, 2023 several human rights organisations – including Amnesty International and DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture – called on the Bahrain Governemnt to ensure Al-Khawaja adequate medical treatment
- On August 9, 2023 AP News reported that several Bahrain prison inmates had started a hunger strike in latest sign of simmering unrest Bahrain