BAHRAIN: Appeal to release Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and concern over their deteriorating health
25 April 2017
We, the undersigned NGOs, express grave concern over the deteriorating health of Bahraini human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, both arbitrarily detained in poor conditions and denied access to proper medical care.
Nabeel Rajab, 53, who suffers from poor health conditions which have worsened because of his detention, underwent surgery for bleeding ulcers on April 5, 2017 at Manama’s military hospital. Only two days after the surgery, Mr. Rajab was sent back to West Riffa police station where he is being detained in solitary confinement most of the time. In addition, Mr. Rajab’s family was denied the right to visit him while in the hospital. Finally, on April 8, 2017, Mr. Rajab was rushed to the police hospital in an ambulance because of an infected wound that followed an operation. His family reported that he “was forced to stay with dirty clothes with blood all over it and denied any hygienic products for two days” despite “a deep and open wound which causes severe pain and needs constant care”.
Mr. Rajab, is the co-founder and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of the Middle East advisory committee at Human Rights Watch.
Arbitrarily detained since June 13, 2016, Nabeel Rajab is facing a series of politically motivated charges which could incur up to 18 years in prison for promoting human rights in the media, including social media. When considering a similar case in 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UN WGAD) found that Mr. Rajab’s detention was arbitrary, adding that the “domestic laws of Bahrain (…) seem to deny persons the basic right to freedom of opinion, expression” . The next hearings are scheduled on May 16 and 17, 2017.
Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, 56, began a hunger strike, drinking only water, on April 12, 2017, to protest the worsening conditions faced by detainees as well as the ongoing arbitrary arrests and detentions of human rights defenders in the country. It is feared that another hunger strike puts Mr. Al-Khawaja’s life at risk as he is already in poor health conditions because of previous long-lasting hunger strikes, as well as from the effects of torture. On April 20, 2017, Mr. Al-Khawaja began to take necessary liquids to avoid losing consciousness and being transferred to hospital, where he feared he would be force-fed, as in past hunger strikes. He suffers from exhaustion, general weakness, and dizziness. He thus requires urgent medical intervention.
Mr. Al-Khawaja, co-founder of the GCHR and the BCHR, was sentenced to life in prison in June 2011 for politically motivated charges. On September 4, 2012, the High Court of Appeals upheld the sentence against him. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) concluded that Mr. Al-Khawaja was subjected to torture and inhumane treatment during his arrest and detention. He was severely beaten, resulting in a broken jaw, and later spent two months in solitary confinement where he was subjected to severe acts of torture. He continues to be denied adequate medical attention and suffers from severe complications because of his ill-treatment in detention.
The two human rights defenders are widely recognized for their human rights work at international, regional and national levels. They have already spent a significant amount of time in prison as retaliation for their human rights work and should be immediately and unconditionally released.
Therefore we, the undersigned organisations, call on the Bahraini authorities to:
· Ensure Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s physical and psychological integrity under all circumstances;
· Immediately and unconditionally releaseNabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja as their detention is arbitrary and only aims at sanctioning their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities; and
· Put an end to all forms of inhumane and degrading treatmentand harassment, including at the judicial level, against Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.
The appeal has been signed by 63 human rights organizations from around the world, including FIDH member organization in Belarus - Human Rights Center "Viasna".