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Written by HRDs and Journalists
Bahrain- Human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja ends hunger strike, Nabeel Rajab is released on bail and Zainab Al-Khawaja is freed
Beirut, 29 May 2012 -- The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) welcome the news that internationally renowned human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has decided to end his hunger strike and that human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja have been released on bail.
On the 28th of May 2012, human rights defender and founder of the GCHR and BCHR, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, announced that he is ending his 110-day hunger strike. Since the 23rd of April 2012, in violation of his human rights, he was subjected to force-feeding by state agents and his decision to end his hunger strike follows on-going requests from his fellow detainees and his supporters.
Throughout Al-Khawaja’s hunger strike he was able to draw international attention to the on-going human rights violations that are taking place in Bahrain. The hunger strike brought attention to the plight of human rights defenders and political activists who are in/were in detention and/or have been subjected to human rights violations by the authorities as a result of their peaceful activities. Despite the primary demand of his hunger strike of “freedom or death” not being met, he has achieved one of his main goals by attracting global attention and focus on the human rights situation in the country. In a statement issued by Alkhawaja, the human rights defender thanked his family for their support and expressed his gratitude to all those who had shown solidarity with him both inside and outside Bahrain. He will now begin a special diet in order for his body to recover from the 110-day hunger strike.
Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was arrested on the 8th of April 2011 and subjected to severe physical and psychological torture as well as sexual assault in detention. The National Safety Military Court sentenced al-Khawaja to life in prison in June 2011 on fabricated charges of terrorism and attempting to overthrow the regime. In November the military court rejected his appeal and on the 2nd of April 2012 the Court of Cassation refused his lawyer’s appeal to release him on health grounds, despite his deteriorating health condition. He began his hunger strike on the 8th of February 2012. The GCHR and BCHR have issued previous appeals on his case with the most recent dated on the 5th of April 2012 (http://gc4hr.org/news/view/110).
On the 22nd of May 2012, Abdulhadi Al-Khawja appeared in a wheel chair, at an appeal before a civilian court. During his testimony he denied the charges against him and he testified about the violations he had been subjected to by state authorities since his arrest including being held in solitary confinement severe torture. These violations were referred to in the report issued by the "Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry" (BICI) on the 23rd of November 2011.
Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja referred to the findings of the BICI report in his testimony before the court and stated “the continuation of my arrest is a crime …. there is no legal excuse for my continued detention”. On this basis, he demanded his immediate release, the dropping of all charges against him and the quashing of the sentence issued by the National Safety Military Court. He also demanded the provision of necessary guarantees that would enable him to continue his activities in defending human rights in absolute freedom after his release.
The GCHR and BCHR welcome the news that Nabeel Rajab was released on bail on 28 May 2012 but reiterate that all charges must be dropped. Nabeel Rajab is the director of the GCHR and president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He was arrested at the airport in Manama on the 5th of May 2012 upon his return from Beirut and charged with ‘insulting the statuary bodies” the so-called "Twitter Defamation case”, “participating in illegal assembly and calling others to join” through social networking sites. (See GCHR appeal dated 05-05- 2012 (http://gc4hr.org/news/view/138)
Nabeel Rajab has over 140,000 followers on Twitter and has been vocal in criticising Bahrain’s regime. According to information received he was released on bail of 300 Bahraini Dinars (approximately $796) and a travel ban remains in place against him. His trials continue however, a hearing session on the “illegal assembly” case is scheduled on 17 June, while another session for the “twitter case” is scheduled on 24 June.
Furthermore, human rights defender Zainab Alkhawaja @angryarabiya was released today, 29th May 2012, after more than 1 month imprisonment. She is still facing trials in 2 cases. One of the hearing sessions on the case of “illegal assembly, assaulting a police officer and inciting hatred against the regime is scheduled on June 24th, while the case of “obstructing traffic” is scheduled for November 1st 2012.
While the GCHR welcomes the ending of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s hunger strike and the release of both Nabeel Rajab on bail and Zainab Al-Khawaja, it expresses serious concern for the on-going trials of the released activists, the on-going violations of human rights by Bahraini authorities and the continued detention of human rights defenders including Abdulhadi Alkhawaja on fabricated charges.
The GCHR and BCHR call on the authorities in Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and all human rights defenders in Bahrain who are being held solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities;
- Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and all other human rights defenders who have been accused on fabricated charges;
- Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and all other detained human rights defenders;
- Hold accountable those responsible for the torture of human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and others detained, according to the recommendations of the BICI report;
- Ensure that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their human rights work without fear of reprisals and free from all restrictions including judicial harassment.
GCHR and BCHR respectfully remind you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 1 which states that: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, to article 6 ( c ) “ Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others ,t o study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is an independent centre and has been registered in Ireland. The Centre works to strengthen support for human rights defenders and independent journalists in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.