Press release: Al-Khawaja again denied access to cardiologist, despite risk of heart attack or stroke
26 March 2023
- As previously stated, over three weeks ago, Al-Khawaja was taken to an emergency hospital due to an urgent heart issue, and subsequently denied access to a cardiologist.
- After raising pressure on the authorities both in Bahrain as well as internationally, the Bahrain authorities first claimed Al-Khawaja had an appointment on the 19th of March, then on the 26th of March. Al-Khawaja was not taken either time despite agreeing to being handcuffed against medical advice and to being transported in the infamous “Turkish bus”.
- Al-Khawaja’s family stresses that they consider Al-Khawaja’s heart issue as urgent and that Bahrain and Denmark must work together to ensure a medical evacuation to Denmark where Al-Khawaja can be transferred to a tertiary level cardiac care unit for diagnostics and treatment.
- Al-Khawaja is in need of torture rehabilitation which includes treatment for multiple medical issues, as outlined in this statement by Dr. McCormack.
Al-Khawaja was informed today at dawn that he has an appointment to see two doctors today, a cardiologist and a urologist. He got dressed and waited to be transferred. Despite a medical order that Al-Khawaja cannot be handcuffed due to the spinal issues he has as a result of the torture and hunger strikes, he was informed that the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital (Military) has demanded that he only be brought if in handcuffs, including inside the transportation vehicle. He agreed. They then informed him that he will only be taken if he agrees to go in the infamous “Turkish bus”, he also agreed despite normally refusing this method of transportation due to the negative impact it has on his health (read more here: The notorious “Turkish Armored vehicle”: A symbol of inhumane treatment of prisoners in Bahrain). They left to “confer” until it was too late to transfer him, in effect denying him the appointments. Al-Khawaja noted that it was clear that they did not want to take him to his medical appointments.
The Turkish Armored Vehicle, also known as the “Turkish Bus,” is a notorious symbol of inhumane treatment of prisoners in Bahrain. It is primarily used to transfer prisoners from one location to another. The metal body of the vehicle turns it into an oven during the summer, causing vomiting, headaches, and other illnesses. There are no windows or ventilation, leaving the prisoners in a stifling environment for hours on end.The vehicle is characterized by small, cramped plastic chairs and surrounding bars that prevent prisoners from standing or moving, especially that the prisoners tend to be shackled by hands and legs.
Despite several members of the Bahrain13 suffering from serious health issues, including related to back problems and urinary tract issues; the prison administration is cracking down on the prisoners by enforcing handcuffs and chains for any transportation to hospital appointments and long periods in the notorious “Turkish bus”. For example, Abdulwahhab Hussain is unable to move around without crutches, and since several months has effectively been denied access to any hospital visits because they told him he can only go if he wears handcuffs.
The enforcement of the handcuffs is more recent and was not a requirement in the past few years.
The new doctor appointed to the prison clinic said that she’s happy the clinic is being set up so that the prisoners can get treated only there, and no longer taken to any hospital. This being despite the prison clinic not being up to par with UN standards on what is considered a viable prison clinic, let alone replace hospital visits.
In an apparent crackdown on the prisoners of conscience as they mark 12 years since their arrests, Al-Khawaja said in a call to his daughter Maryam today: “They’re trying to find a way to make sure we never leave the prison. We live and die here. They want to get us to that point, that we accept anything they enforce on us.”
Maryam, Al-Khawaja’s daughter, commented:
“Despite it not being in their own political interest, it seems the Bahrain regime is setting up the circumstances to cause the death of my father and potentially others in prison. This wouldn’t be the first time as there were three deaths in Bahrain’s prisons in 2021 amid serious allegations of medical negligence. We need governments, especially Bahrain’s allies in the West, to move before it’s too late.”
Maryam Al-Khawaja recently addressed the UN Human Rights Council about her father’s situation during Bahrain’s UPR acceptance session, and The Guardian published an article about Maryam’s request to swap places with her father in prison in an attempt to save his life.
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 in a report that Al-Khawaja was subjected to torture and sexually assaulted by security forces in 2011. The torture occurred, among other places, at the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) Hospital.
In December 2022, an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament passed a resolution recognizing that Al-Khawaja suffers from a series of chronic and degenerative health problems, including extreme back pain and impaired vision, which is a direct consequence of his imprisonment, torture and deprivation of access to medical care. The European Parliament furthermore acknowledged that the prison authorities at Jau Prison have been denying Al-Khawaja adequate medical treatment.
In April 2022, Amnesty International and Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) raised concern over the ongoing medical neglect of Al-Khawaja, which, among other things, could lead to the risk of blindness for Al-Khawaja.
The inadequate treatment of Al-Khawaja follows a shocking pattern of medical negligence in Bahrain’s prison system, where patients are denied specialist care and pain medication, as revealed by Amnesty International in September 2018.