On 22 June 2017 human rights defender and BCHR’s former President Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has spent 6 years in Jau prison as part of his life sentence. On that same date 6 years ago, a Bahraini military court sentenced him to life in prison for his human rights activities. Al-Khawaja was sentenced along with many others, who became known as the “Bahrain 13”. Their case was based on freedom of expression issues. Al-Khawaja received his life sentence after an unfair trial marred by serious and credible allegations of torture.

Al-Khawaja’s health has gravely deteriorated during the 6 years in prison. He has, among others, developed problems in his right eye with complete vision loss during daylight hours and headaches on the right side of his head and behind his right eye. He has recently been on a 24 days hunger strike. During the hunger strike he suffered from low blood sugar levels, stomach ache and intense pain in his lower back. He also experienced muscle spasms and had trouble urinating.

Al-Khawaja’s decision to go on a hunger strike was motivated by the inhumane treatment of detainees in Jau Prison and the continued harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain. Thus, prisoners at Jau are subjected to severe deprivation of medical care and restrictions on their contact with other inmates and the outside world, including their families. Al-Khawaja’s life was at risk during his hunger strike, due to previous health issues and poor prison conditions.

The degrading and dehumanizing treatment of prisoners - a situation that has intensified following a crackdown on prisoners’ rights at Jau Prison in 2015 - violates human rights standards and the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules). According to rule 1 of the Nelson Mandela Rules, “no prisoner shall be subjected to [...] cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for which no circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification.”

Al-Khawaja suspended his hunger strike on 5 May 2017, however, is still in a very poor state of health necessitating frequent medical attention.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the government of Bahrain to:

  • ensure that Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is treated humanely and with dignity according to article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bahrain has ratified, as well as the Nelson Mandela Rules; and
  • end all reprisals against human rights defenders.