16, Nov 2022 KL 17:53

Update on judicial harassment of Human Rights Defender and Danish-Bahraini Citizen, Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja

  • Today, 16 November, renowned human rights defender and dual Danish-Bahraini citizen, Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja had a scheduled hearing in Bahrain’s Second Lower Criminal Court over new criminal charges linked to his protesting the denial of calls to his daughters in Jau Prison. This represents the first amongst multiple new cases levelled by authorities against Al-Khawaja, who is already facing a life-time sentence on UN-determined arbitrary charges.
  • Today’s hearing was postponed until 28 November, on the grounds that Al-Khawaja needed to do a power of attorney which he was going to do in-person while attending the hearing. Al-Khawaja informed his daughter that after being taken for processing, he was kept in an area where his fellow prisoner had recently been subjected to an attempted assault. The lieutenant attempted to pressure and threaten Al-Khawaja into recording a video stating that he was refusing to attend the hearing. Al-Khawaja told his daughter that even though he felt as though he must accept the demand, he refused and repeatedly stated on camera that he wants to attend the hearing. He was then transferred back to his cell.
  • “After speaking with my father today, I am incredibly concerned. They are threatening and intimidating  him with the intent of having him make false and misleading statements by bringing him to a place where someone else was abused and insisting that he testify , on video, that he did not want to go to his trial. It is a blatant violation of his judicial rights and a continuation of the reprisals against him.” said Zainab Al-Khawaja
  • It was planned that Al-Khawaja would also go to court next week on charges of insulting a public servant and insulting a foreign state, namely Israel. It will be the first time a prisoner faces a court hearing in the country over a peaceful protest held behind prison walls since Bahrain declared normalisation with Israel in 2020.
  • After the family went public, the said charges against insulting a foreign state, namely Israel, was removed by authorities from the online portal of cases documented against Al-Khawaja. The charge no longer appears on the system, but it is unclear whether the charge has been officially withdrawn or if it is still standing.

Please refer to the first press release dated November 16th 2022 for further information. 

Background:

Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja is a prominent human rights defender and Danish-Bahraini citizen who was detained in 2011 in Bahrain after leading peaceful protests calling for fundamental freedoms and rights in Bahrain. He remains at Jau Prison facing dire prison conditions and systematic denial of medical treatment.

Al-Khawaja is a life-long human rights defender, activist and leader, founder and former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, co-founder of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, former MENA Protection Coordinator at Front Line Defenders, published writer and poet, 2013 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, husband, father, and grandfather. In June he received the highest human rights recognition, the Martin Ennals Award.

In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry documented in a report that Al-Khawaja was subjected to torture and sexually assaulted  by security forces in 2011, stating that “Immediately after the arrest, the detainee received a hard blow to the side of his face, which broke his jaw”, “Security personnel in the hospital threatened him with sexual abuse and execution” and threatened his family, and “spent two months in solitary confinement in a small cell measuring approximately 2.5m x 2m” and that “masked guards” beat him “routinely” and sexually assaulted him, amongst other serious violations.