Detained defender Al Khawaja between life and death

In Arab Countries by CIHRS4 Comments

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) are extremely concerned about the continued deterioration of the health status of jailed prominent human rights defenders Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and hold the Government of Bahrain directly responsible for his life and for any health damage he sustains.

Currently, there are protests all over Bahrain demanding the release of Al Khawaja all of which are being attacked by Bahraini riot police forces. Al Khawaja family lawyer, Mohamed AlJishi confirmed that activist Zainab Al Khawaja, daughter of Abdulhadi, was just arrested from in front of the prison hospital where he is being detained, after refusing to leave and calling out her father’s name. There are reports of a number of arrests among other protesters, in a number of areas around Bahrain. There is a video showing Zainab’s voice as she screamed “father” in front of the prison’s hospital few minutes before getting arrested. She is currently being detained at Alhoora police Station, and is being refused legal counsel. Zainab’s arrest comes 3 days prior to the first anniversary of Al Khawaja’s arrest on April 8th, 2011.

Al Khawaja’s lawyer Mohammed AlJishi was able to visit him in the prison’s hospital yesterday and released a severely disturbing picture of an emaciated Al Khawaja. According to the doctors he has lost around 25% of his weight. His wife was told that his pulse is so weak he may go into cardiac arrest at any minute or into a coma. Al Khawaja is currently unable to move, with very low sugar and blood pressure levels and doctors affirm that if he survives, he is at serious risk of organ failure, especially since there is blood in his urine which doctors have said is indicative of kidney failure.

Today marks the 57th day of Al Khawaja’s hunger strike, which he started last February in protest of his unlawful arrest in April 2011, and his 51st birthday. Al Khawaja, a dual Bahrain and Danish national was subjected to severe torture and sexual assault leading to fractures in his face including a broken jaw, as documented in case number 8 in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report. While in recovery from surgery after the incident, the Bahraini authorities continued to torture him.

Abdulhadi Al Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison by a military court in June 2011 on fabricated charges of terrorism and attempting to overthrow the regime. In November the military court rejected the appeal in Al Khawaja’s case. On April 2nd, 2012 the Court of Cassation refused Al Khawaja’s lawyer’s appeal to release him on health grounds, despite his continuously deteriorating health condition in detention. The next hearing has been set to April 23rd, which may be too late given his current health condition.

We call on the international community and the United Nations, and all related international and regional human rights mechanisms, to stand up to their responsibility of protecting human rights and freedoms in Bahrain and ensure the immediate release of human rights defender Al Khawaja as recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and Sir Nigel Rodley. We recommend that he be immediately released to the Danish Authorities on humanitarian grounds, as requested by the Danish Foreign Minister.

Latest picture of AlKawaja:!/Bh_9mood/status/187978162787979264/photo/1
Video of Zainab’s voice as she screamed “Baba”:

Al Khawaja is the co-founder and previous president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the previous Middle East and North Africa Coordinator for Front Line Defenders.


My Father is Dying

5 Apr 2012

* Maryam al-Khawaja – Bahraini Activist and Head of Foreign Relations for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights

This is the thought constantly running through my head.

As a human rights defender I have learned to numb my emotions and continue working. I have been working on covering human rights violations in Bahrain for more than two years now, documenting all the arbitrary arrests, systematic torture, rapes, kidnappings, extra-judicial killings; the list goes on.
At 24 years old I’ve come to learn how the world quantifies the value of a life. In Bahrain, the livelihood of an entire nation is not worth the value of one barrel of oil sold to the west by Saudi Arabia. Politics and geopolitical interests are what decide whether a people can live with dignity or if they are viewed as sub-human.

This politicization of the human condition is not only present in the policies of nation states, but in the international mechanisms supposedly set up to protect human rights. The so-called Arab spring proved, once again, that we are still living in an age where  the UN Human Rights Council has little agency to act on its own accord. It, like all other agencies must bow to the powers that be.

Faced with the enormous obstacle that is geopolitics, it has become increasingly more difficult for me to remain hopeful and motivated. It is difficult to remain impartial and refuse to take up personal cases of my family members who have been imprisoned and tortured.

I constantly fear the phone call bearing the message that I will never see my father again. I cannot imagine a life without my father, and I cannot come to terms with a world that would allow my father to die.

Today, April 5th, is my fathers birthday. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, the man who dedicated himself to fighting for human rights, who trained tens of other activists, is known as the Godfather of human rights in Bahrain. My father, who was beaten unconscious in front of his family, arrested, then severely tortured for months. My father, sentenced to life imprisonment in a military court. My father, on his 57th day of hunger strike as his only way of protesting the daily human rights violations of the Bahraini regime against the people of Bahrain.

My father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is dying to live. Literally.

This is what propels my activism. This is why I will continue to fight.

This post is also available in: العربية

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