Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja
(Photo: Frontline Defenders)

Joint letter to King of Bahrain Regarding Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja
(Photo: Frontline Defenders)

His Majesty the King

Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King

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.


  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
  • Andean Foundation for Media Observation & Study
  • Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Association of Independent Electronic Media
  • Bahrain Center for Human Rights
  • 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
  • Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
  • Bedoon Rights, Kuwait 
  • Hivos, The Netherlands 
  • International Media Support (IMS), Denmark 
  • Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), US


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

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