16 May 2011

After refusing to apologize on camera to the King: Prominent Human Rights Activist Threatened with Rape

Joint Statement of the BCHR and BYSHR

Today at the 3rd hearing of the 21 defendants standing trial for charges including attempting to topple the government, former MENA Coordinator of Frontline Defenders and Former President of the Bahrain Centre of Human Rights, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was removed from court. This happened immediately after he spoke at the beginning of the trial saying that he was threatened with rape after he refused to apologize to the King on Camera. He also told the judge that he had complained to the court in the previous session that he had been threatened and that the court had not done anything to secure his safety. The court judge refused to listen to these statements and Mr. Alkhawaja was ordered out of the court room even though he said that was all he wanted to say.

After the meeting Mr. Alkhawaja was allowed ten minutes with members of his family and his lawyer in the presence of one of the soldiers in the courtroom. He told them that last Friday he was escorted by 4 individuals in a white Sedan to an unknown location in a room where there was a video camera; a man there told him that he was a representative of the King and he began to question him. After the questioning, he was asked if he would like to apologize to the King, Mr.Alkhawaja responded, that as he had said in the Military prosecution he will only apologize if it turns out that what he has said is based on anything but the truth. Mr. Alkhawaja added (speaking to his family) that he feared that his words would be edited to seem like an apology. He was then asked again if he would like to apologize and he refused. Then he was taken to another room where the 4 men started to use foul language and threatened him with rape and that they would catch his daughter, BCHR activist Maryam Alkhawaja (who had recently participated in a congressional hearing on Bahrain), and rape her too. At this point the men started undressing and showing their private parts after which they started touching Mr. Alkhawaja inappropriately. When they tried to take off his pants, he threw himself down and started hitting his head on the ground continuously until he almost passed out. Seeing this they returned him to his prison cell. The doctor that examined Mr.Alkhawaja is afraid that this incident might cause complications with his head injuries that he sustained when he was arrested and has therefore scheduled an x-ray for today.

Maryam Alkhawaja

It is important to note that this is the third time Mr. Alkhawaja has spoken in court about abuse that he and other prisoners are being subjected to. In the first trial date 8 May 2011 he said to the judge that the court needs to give them guarantees that the continuous torture will end. In the second trial he stated that he was threatened of being killed if he spoke out in court. In all three attempts, the military judge not only silenced Mr. Alkhawaja but also refused to address any of the claims of torture, threats and abuse. This last time the court judge ordered that Mr. Alkhawaja statements be stricken from the court record. Another defendant, Mr. Mohammed Hassan, also spoke out in court today, stating that he has been subjected to torture, and that his body still bore the marks. He raised his pant legs to show evidence of torture.

After all these allegations and threats the BYSHR and BCHR fear for the safety and security of the defendants in general and in particular those that choose to speak out about their conditions and treatment in prison, especially considering the 4 deaths of individuals in custody.

The BYSHR and the BCHR call for:

1. The immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Alkhawaja and the other 20 detainees 2. An immediate investigation into the allegations of torture and mistreatment of the defendants 3. The international community to pressure the Bahraini authorities to provide guarantees for the safety and well being of human rights defenders in general and Mr. Alkhawaja in particular

Bahrain centre for Human Rights (BCHR) www.bahrainrights.org Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) www.byshr.org