|code: 312264||Date: 2012/05/01 - 11:32||source: BCHR|
The government of Bahrain must release all detained human rights defenders immediately and unconditionally
On 21 April 2012, Zainab Al-Khawaja staged a one-woman protest by sitting down on a highway close to the Financial Harbour, in protest against the ongoing detention of her father, leading human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike for about 82 days. She was immediately arrested and kept in detention for the last 10 days.
Zainab was not allowed a family visit until Sunday 29 April 2012, when she saw her family and informed them that she has been tortured on the day of her arrest at the Al-Hora police station by a group of police women who removed the security camera and started to beat her severely. She was kicked very hard in her legs and pushed against the wall and she was almost suffocated with a baton. She was also verbally abused beyond public decency by one male officer.
This is the fourth time in which she was arrested by the security forces in Bahrain this past month alone, for protesting seeking her father’s freedom. On 7 and 20 April 2012, Zainab was arrested at the military hospital where her father lies as she tried to visit him.
It appears that the government of Bahrain has the intention to keep Zainab Al-Khawaja in detention in order to permanently prevent her from protesting, while authorities keep her father in detention. He told his family they forced-fed him last week without his permission, which could be described as a form of torture.
Zainab Al-Khawaja is already facing charges since February 2012, of illegal gathering, assaulting a police officer and inciting hatred against the regime, after she was arrested during a protest on 15 December 2011, and detained for five days, where she was beaten and ill-treated. Today, Monday 30 April 2012 she was presented before the second and fifth lower criminal courts on charges of disrupting the traffic and insulting an officer on one case, and swearing at a security officer at military hospital in a second case. The judge decided to keep her in detention until the next hearing on 2 May 2012.
The GCHR, BCHR, and BYSHR, are very concerned about the arrest, detention, prosecution and torture of human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja while in Bahrain policy custody. The three rights groups believe that the continued targeting and the recent arrest and detention of Zainab Al-Khawaja is directly linked to both her work in the defence of human rights and democracy in Bahrain and her exercise of freedom to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We see this as part of an ongoing trend of harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain. GCHR, BCHR and BYSHR are very concerned for the physical and psychological welfare of human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja.
The GCHR, BCH,R, and BYSHR welcome the decision by the Bahraini court of cassation today 30 April 2012, to overturn the military verdicts against the 14 activists who have been detained since last year and sentenced up to life imprisonment, on alleged charges of "incitement against the regime, and attempt to bring down the regime". They include, human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a founder of both BCHR and GCHR, who was sentenced to life in prison last year and who has been on hunger strike since 8 February 2012. The GCHR, BCHR, and BYSHR believe that the 14 human rights defenders and activists are prisoners of conscience who have been targeted for exercising their freedoms and fundamental rights.
GCHR, BCHR, and BYSHR urge the Bahrain authorities to:
1. Immediately release Zainab Al-Khawaja and drop all charges against her, as it is believed that these measures have been taken against her solely due to her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights, and the exercise of freedom to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in accordance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
2. Immediately and unconditionally release all the other detained human rights defenders and activists including leading human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.
3. Drop all charges against human rights defenders held on 'politically motivated' charges.
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights calls your attention to the rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed in 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” in particular to Article 5 (b) which states that: “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (b)To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups;” Article 6 (c) “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To 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”.