April 20, 2012
Today, four members of the United States Senate, including Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Robert Casey (D-PA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) requested Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa to release longtime human rights advocate Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. In the letter, the Senators declared:
We write to urge your government to release Mr. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja on urgent humanitarian grounds. . ..Mr. al-Khawaja’s continued imprisonment has placed his life in jeopardy and threatens to further inflame tensions in Bahrain. We recognize that your government has made progress on some of the recommendations of the BICI report, and we encourage additional efforts to advance an inclusive political dialogue that will address issues raised by peaceful protesters and will put Bahrain on a path of long-term stability.
Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner stated: “Freedom Now echoes the urgent call by these Senators, who join thousands of voices all over the world, on the Bahrain government to release Mr. al-Khawaja, and to make meaningful progress in the reform process. The Bahrain government holds Mr. al-Khawaja’s life in its hands, and is doing so with no basis in law. If Mr. al-Khawaja is not released soon, he will surely die. The Government of Bahrain must demonstrate compassion and respect for international law and immediately release Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.”
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is a prominent human rights defender imprisoned in Bahrain for his outspoken advocacy in the pro-reform protests in Bahrain. He is more than 70 days into a hunger strike, which he began on February 8 to protest his imprisonment and the inhumane treatment to which he was subjected by Bahraini authorities. Arrested April 9, 2011, he was charged with alleged state security crimes, and on June 22, was sentenced to life in prison. Mr. al-Khawaja was denied justice on appeal. However, at the end of last year an independent commission of inquiry (BICI) called for civilian retrials for those who had been convicted by military tribunals. A new verdict in Mr. al-Khawaja’s case is expected on Monday, April 23.
[TEXT OF LETTER]
Dear Prime Minister al-Khalifa:
We write to urge your government to release Mr. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja on urgent humanitarian grounds.
Mr. al-Khawaja has been detained for more than a year for his participation in mass protests calling for political reform in Bahrain. On April 9, 2011, masked policemen reportedly arrested Mr. al-Khawaja without a warrant and beat him so severely that he required surgery to fix his broken jaw and other facial injuries. Mr. al-Khawaja was prosecuted along with twenty other individuals by a military tribunal. A life sentence was handed down swiftly following a trial that failed to meet minimum international standards of due process, according to United Nations experts.
In December 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) called for individuals who had been subjected to military trials to be retried in civilian courts. Unfortunately, this recommendation has not yet been implemented. Mr. al-Khawaja’s health continues to deteriorate and he is unlikely to survive a new trial. He began a hunger strike more than 70 days ago, on February 8, and his life is now in grave jeopardy. In light of his Danish citizenship, we strongly urge you to accept the requests of the Danish government and allow Mr. al-Khawaja to seek medical treatment in Denmark.
Mr. al-Khawaja’s continued imprisonment has placed his life in jeopardy and threatens to further inflame tensions in Bahrain. We recognize that your government has made progress on some of the recommendations of the BICI report, and we encourage additional efforts to advance an inclusive political dialogue that will address issues raised by peaceful protestors and will put Bahrain on a path of long-term stability.