45 rights groups call on King to free Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, whose life is at risk in prison in Bahrain

Monday, March 5, 2012

The following is a letter by 45 IFEX members and other rights groups calling on the Bahrain authorities to release from prison human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, whose life is at risk after almost four weeks on hunger strike:

His Majesty the King
Shaikh Hamad bin 'Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King P.O. Box 555 Rifa'a Palace, Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 176 64 587

Your Majesty,

We, the undersigned 45 human rights organisations which are members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) and other groups, call on the government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release from prison well-known human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, the founder of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and former president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, a member of IFEX. Al-Khawaja is a courageous defender of the people's rights in Bahrain and the Middle East and North Africa region who is at huge risk of dying in prison, having started a hunger strike on 8 February 2012, and now suffering deteriorated health as he enters his fourth week without nourishment. In an open letter, Al-Khawaja pledged to stay on hunger strike until "freedom or death."

According to his family and his lawyer, Al-Khawaja can no longer sit up for very long and spends most of his day lying down. The hospital clinic can no longer administer IV fluids as the activist's veins are too weak. His condition is more severe, and similar to someone who has been on hunger strike for two months.

After being arrested in April 2011, Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison in June 2011, as part of a group trial of 21 activists and human rights defenders charged with a range of offences related to their role in peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain in February and March. Human rights organisations and even the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) have said the trials did not comply with international standards of due process, nor even Bahrain's own criminal code, because the 21 men were tried under National Safety Courts. While the BICI recommended the transfer of all cases for review under civilian courts, this has not been done for the case of the 21 activists.

We believe that the evidence is clear that Al-Khawaja and the other activists were sentenced in violation of their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, contrary to international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Therefore, we respectfully demand the immediate release of Al-Khawaja, and transfer to Denmark, where he is a dual citizen, to get the urgent medical treatment he needs as a result of his lengthy hunger strike, in addition to the torture he endured while in detention, as documented by the BICI and human rights organisations.

We are deeply concerned about the health of human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and urge the Bahraini authorities not to reject this humanitarian call.


Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Andean Foundation for Media Observation & Study
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association of Independent Electronic Media
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Centre for Independent Journalism
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Freedom Forum
Globe International
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda
Human Rights Watch
Index on Censorship
Initiative for Freedom of Expression
Institute of Mass Information
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de Venezuela
International Press Institute
Maharat Foundation (Skills Foundation)
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Media Watch
National Union of Somali Journalists
Pacific Freedom Forum
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
Public Association "Journalists"
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International

Other organisations:

Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Coordination Committee (BCC), US
Bahrain rehabilitation & Anti Violence Organization (BRAVO)
Bedoon Rights, Kuwait
Human Rights First
International Media Support (IMS), Denmark
Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Tunis Centre for Freedom of the Press (CTPJ), Tunisia

cc. Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain

Dr Fatima bint Mohammed Al Balooshi, Minister of Human Rights and Social Development
Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development
P.O. Box 32868, Manama, Bahrain
Email: pr (@) social.gov.bh

Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
3502 International Drive NW
Washington, DC 20008 USA
Phone: 202 342 1111,
Fax: 202 362 2192
Email: ambsecretary (@) bahrainembassy.org

As posted on IFEX