Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bahrain: Detained Bahraini activist Zainab Al-Khawaja faces 13 cases

Source: Bahrain Center for Human Rights

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Gulf Center for Human Rights and Bahrain Center for Human Rights express their grave concern over the information received regarding the ill-treatment of detained human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja in prison in Bahrain, as well as the continued exploitation of the judicial system to punish human rights defenders and hinder their peaceful and legitimate human rights work. Al-Khawaja is facing up to 13 cases, in addition to a 3 months' imprisonment sentence issued against her on trumped-up charges.

By not taking enough measures to prevent torture on its territory, Bahrain has violated the entire Convention against torture, which they signed and ratified in 1998. The state of Bahrain is furthermore continuously ignoring the UN “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners”, which since its creation in 1955, sets out the minimum standards regarding for example clothing, hygiene, food, inspections and medical services for prisoners, which creates very severe consequences for prisoners like Zainab Al-Khawaja.

Chain of judicial harassment against detained human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja and ill-treatment in prison

Activist and human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja has been detained since 2 August 2012 following her arrest while protesting alone at the Al Qadam roundabout. Her leg was in a cast following an injury she sustained previously when security forces shot her with tear gas canisters at close range.

Zainab Al-Khawaja currently has thirteen cases against her, 7 of which are currently in court.

In September 2012 alone, the court will be holding sessions for three of the charges that Zainab faces, notably:

1- Damaging the King's photo on May 2012, for which the next hearing session will be on 26 September 2012. She is currently in detention for this case.

2- Participating in a demonstration that was not previously authorized and entering a restricted zone, which is the “pearl roundabout area,” in February 2012. The next hearing for this case will be on 25 September 2012.

3- Assembling on AbuSaiba roundabout in December 2011, and inciting hatred against the regime, for which the next hearing will be on 26 September 2012.

Zainab has already been sentenced in several other cases, resulting in fines and prison time. She has also been detained for several weeks on several occasions, and in one case, she was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment on 22 May 2012 for charges of assembly and disrupting traffic in Aali in November 2011. On that occasion, she stood to stop the riot police from attacking the mourners of a man killed by the regime of Bahrain (see video online). On 10 October 2012, the court of appeal will be hearing this case as the sentence has not yet been carried. On 16 October 2012, the court of appeal will hold session on the case of insulting an official at the military hospital, for which the court has previously acquitted Zainab but the public prosecution has appealed against the acquittal. On 1 November 2012, the court will hold a session on the case of disrupting traffic near the financial harbour in April 2011.

GCHR and BCHR have also received information that the public prosecution is still investigating more cases against Zainab Al-Khawaja where she is accused of assembly and disrupting traffic.

GCHR and BCHR believe that the continued detention and prosecution of Zainab Al-Khawaja is directly linked to both her work in the defense of human rights and democracy in Bahrain and her exercise of her rights to peaceful assembly and free expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The organizations see this as part of an ongoing trend of harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain which targeted the leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab with similar judicial harassment that concluded with his being sentenced to three years' imprisonment..

GCHR and BCHR are very concerned for the physical and psychological welfare of human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja, especially that she was not allowed to see her specialized doctor to monitor the condition of her injured leg since she was detained on 2 August 2012. By denying Zainab proper medical attention for her injury, Bahrain is violating article 25 of the UDHR regarding the right to health as well as the previously mentioned “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners”.

Similar to many other children in Bahrain whose parent or parents are imprisoned, Zainab's daughter Jude had to celebrate her third birthday without her mother today. Last year, her father was imprisoned during this special day. Her father wrote on twitter “I haven't wept when I was arrested, tortured, physically and sexually humiliated, when I first saw my family after more than two months, when I was sentenced for four years imprisonment or when after ten months I was released, now I weep because I see Jude without her mother on her birthday”. To further harass Zainab and her family, her request to visit her father in prison was denied and she was not allowed to give her daughter a paper duck that she had made for her birthday. In addition, Zainab's request to visit her imprisoned father the human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was rejected.

Click here for the full statement online