Bahrain: Release of wrongly convicted: Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and others

Your Majesty the King Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa, Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa

Re: Release of wrongly convicted: Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and others

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)1 is gravely concerned for the safety of human rights defender Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, and twenty other human rights defenders whose cases have been transferred to a civilian court for review following an announcement made by Bahrain’s Military Court on April 30, 2012 and calls for their immediate release.

On June 22, 2011, Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), and the former MENA Director at Front Line and 20 other political and human rights activists, were sentenced to life in prison. The sentences were handed down by the since disbanded military-led National Security Court of Bahrain on charges of: “organizing and managing a terrorist organization”, “attempting to overthrow the Government by force and in liaison with a terrorist organisation working for a foreign country”, and “collecting money for a terrorist group”. Since February 9, 2012, Mr. Al Khawaja has been on a hunger strike to protest the wrongful convictions and sentences by the discredited National Security Court of Bahrain.

The charges, the evidence and the tribunal itself are considered illegitimate and in violation of the Convention against Torture2, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and other international instruments. While LRWC is pleased that a review of the convictions is now underway, we are deeply concerned by Mr. Al Khawaja’s deteriorating health status, as his hunger strike against arbitrary detention has reached its 13th week. Reports indicate that Mr. Al Khawaja’s health have been further damaged by torture and sexual assaults. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) has confirmed that Mr. Al Khawaja suffered from prolonged torture during his detention.

The Government of Bahrain is obliged to abide by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)3, and the Convention against Torture (UNCAT). ICCPR and UNCAT impose inescapable duties on Bahrain to prevent and punish torture, to prohibit absolutely the use of evidence allegedly obtained by torture and to ensure fair trials. Bahrain is also obliged by other international law to guarantee freedom from torture, the right to a fair trail before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, the right to disclosure and to make full answer and defense and freedom from malicious prosecutions and prosecutions based on illegitimate charges. LRWC can provide a list of these instruments.

LRWC calls on the Government of Bahrain to ensure:

  1. the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Al Khawaja along with the twenty others whose convictions are now under review;
  2. that the review of the convictions adheres strictly to international law fair trial standards;
  3. effective measures to prevent and punish the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment in Bahrain;
  4. a thorough investigation of allegations that Bahrain authorities tortured Mr. Al Khawaja;
  5. education and training about UNCAT and the absolute prohibition on the use of torture for all civil and military Bahraini personnel involved in law enforcement, detention, arrest or interrogation;
  6. that Mr. Al Khawaja and other human rights defenders including those advocating for democracy are protected from reprisals or other interference with their work in accordance with the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

LRWC will continue monitoring the situation. Due to the urgent nature of this matter, LRWC respectfully requests your prompt response outlining the remedial actions taken. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.


Gail Davidson
Executive Director, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

1 LRWC is a committee of lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by protecting advocacy rights.  LRWC campaigns for advocates in danger because of their human rights advocacy, engages in research and education and works in cooperation with other human rights organizations. LRWC has Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
2 Bahrain acceded to the Convention against Torture on April 5, 1998.
3 Bahrain acceded to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights 20 September 2006.