Sunday 24 August 2014, Bahrain – Prominent human rights defender and founder of the Bahrain Center for Human rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, has declared an open hunger strike “in protest against the continuation of arbitrary arrest and detention.” In a statement made to members of his immediate family during a visit today, Mr. Al-Khawaja declared that he would refuse all food and liquids with the exception of water. He also informed his family that due to the drugging, force feeding and the forced ending of his last hunger strike, he will also refuse to be taken to any hospital, the prison clinic or to receive any IV treatment during his strike.
Mr. Al-Khawaja was arbitrary arrested on 9 April 2011 and sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court in a grossly unfair trial for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activism. He was subjected to torture during both his arrest and detention. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) found that this torture included severe beatings, sodomy, and psychological abuse resulting in a broken jaw which required immediate surgery. He was also sexually abused at the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital. His case (Number 8) is among the 60 cases of torture and/or ill treatment included in the annex of its report.
In October 2011, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found the detention of Mr. Al-Khawaja to be arbitrary in contravention of articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9, paragraph 3, and 14, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and called for his immediate release as an adequate remedy. They also raised doubts over the charges leveled against Mr. Al-Khawaja and found that the Government of Bahrain violated international norms to the right to a fair trial.
In April 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association, and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers called for the immediate release of Mr. Al-Khawaja.
Mr. Al-Khawaja started a hunger strike in 2012 that lasted 110 days to protest his arbitrary detention. During his strike, Mr. Al-Khawaja was drugged through an IV injection, restrained to the hospital bed and then force fed by a painful procedure using a tube through the nose at the Bahrain Defense Hospital. He now suffers from a number of medical conditions as a result of his treatment in detention. This has included cramps in his facial muscles, and acute pain in his coccyx as a direct result of torture. In 2014, Mr. Al-Khawaja was also informed that his medical files have “gone missing”. He has not received the adequate medical treatment necessary to treat his medical conditions nor any rehabilitation for the torture suffered during detention in direct breach of Bahrain’s obligations under Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture. Mistreatment during imprisonment has continued, mainly through the systematic refusal of access to adequate medical treatment.
We reiterate demands made for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Al-Khawaja and all other prisoners of conscience in Bahrain from detention and the repeal of all their sentences. We remain concerned over continuing allegations of mistreatment in detention and remind authorities of their obligations under the Convention Against Torture, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We also call for impartial investigations over allegations of systematic torture and the prosecution of all those involved in committing, overseeing and/or enabling torture and/or ill-treatment to take place. In addition, all torture survivors must be provided with rehabilitation and reprieve by the authorities.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)