UN Rapporteurs Demand Bahrain to Initiate Investigation on Violations against Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

2023-05-05 - 1:28 م

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): UN special rapporteurs expressed their utmost concern at the continued arbitrary detention of human rights defender Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, after receiving concerning allegations of torture, ill treatment, poor prison conditions and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment and demanded Bahrain to initiate an investigation on the violations he is being subjected to.

The UN rapporteurs said in a joint letter to the government of Bahrain that they have received concerning allegations of torture, ill treatment and poor prison conditions and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment of human rights defender Abdulhadi AlK-hawaja, including the restriction of communication with family.

They said they would appreciate receiving a response within 60 days from the Bahraini government. Past this delay, this communication and any response received from the government of Bahrain will be made public via the communications reporting website. They will also subsequently be made available in the usual report to be presented to the Human Rights Council.

The rapporteurs also expressed "concern with regard to the recent judicial harassment of Mr. Al-Khawaja and the denial of due process in assuring his right to fair trial for the new charges brought against him, and to communicate with his lawyer and attend his hearings." They said that they remain troubled that the continued intimidation, harassment and mistreatment of Mr. Al-Khawaja by the authorities stem from the past and current exercise of his rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

They UN officials demanded the Bahraini government to "provide the details, and where available the results, of any investigation, and judicial or other inquiries carried out in relation to consistent allegations of torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against Mr. Al-Khawaja,' and asked it in case it didn't initiate an investigation to "explain why and how this is compatible with the 4 international human rights obligations of Bahrain."

"The above-mentioned allegations appear to be in contravention with articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Bahrain on 20 September 2006, which provides, respectively, that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention and that everyone has the rights to liberty of movement, to fair proceedings before an independent and impartial tribunal, to freedom of opinion and expression, and to freedom of association with others," they said in their letter.

"The denial of access to lawyers of one's choosing violates the right to legal assistance guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR as well as the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment and the Nelson Mandela Rules."

The rapporteurs referred to "the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment as codified in articles 2 and 16 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), to which Bahrain acceded on 6 March 1998, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain acceded on 20 September 2006."

They demanded Bahrain "to provide information about the legal assistance received by Mr. Al-Khawaja since his arrest, as well as details of how access to legal representation of his choosing has been assured, and on actions taken by the Bahraini Government in follow-up to the recommendations made in Opinion 6/2012 of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention."

The officials said that "While awaiting a reply, we urge that all necessary interim measures be taken to halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence and in the event that the investigations support or suggest the allegations to be correct."

The signatories are: Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mumba Malila, Vice-Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

Human rights organizations sent a letter to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Mr. Josep Borrell Fontelles calling on him to raise the case of prominent Danish-Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja on the 12th anniversary of his arbitrary detention in Jaw prison.

Al-Khawaja was arrested on 9 April 2011, and was detained, tortured and subjected to an unfair trial on fabricated charges, that led to him being sentenced to life in prison because of his human rights work. That sentence was deemed arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention as far back as 2012.

Throughout his detention, Al-Khawaja has endured various forms of reprisals, including physical and mental torture. On 28 February 2023 he experienced intense elevated and rapid heartbeats, in addition to labored breathing, and was transferred to an emergency room for several hours. He was actively prevented from seeing a cardiologist by the Bahraini authorities, contrary to the advice of the prison doctor.

In December 2022, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the release of Mr. Al-Khawaja.

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