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Human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja arrested, ill-treated

Zainab Al-Khawaja protesting at Al-Qadam roundabout
Zainab Al-Khawaja protesting at Al-Qadam roundabout

BCHR

(BCHR/IFEX) - 3 August 2012 - Human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was yet again arrested last night while she was protesting alone at the Al Qadam roundabout. Zainab decided to protest despite her entire leg being in a cast following an injury she sustained not long ago when security forces shot her with tear gas canisters at close range.

After the 2 August arrest, Al-Khawaja was verbally assaulted by a police officer who, right before making sectarian and gender related insults, was very kind while a camera was present. Al-Khawaja left the room in protest, demanded to know the officer's name so she could file a complaint and refused to cooperate until the name was provided.

The head of the police station asked Al-Khawaja if she would go voluntarily or he would "do what's necessary". Al-Khawaja asked if he was threatening her. When a female police officer asked the head of the police station what they should do in case she refused to give a blood sample, he reportedly responded "stick the needle in her neck".

Al- Khawaja was then handcuffed, dragged on the ground and down the stairs, after which she was placed inside a police vehicle. She was then moved to the Fort Prison Hospital where a blood sample was taken from her, then she was transferred to Isa Town Detention Center. Despite her serious leg injury, Al-Khawaja was kept in handcuffs during the whole ride. When she called her family today, she reportedly sounded exhausted and severely in pain.

This is the one of many occasions on which Al-Khawaja has been arrested for merely practicing her right to protest.

The BCHR and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) call on the Government of Bahrain to:

1. Immediately release Zainab Al-Khawaja and drop all charges against her, as it is believed that these measures have been taken against her solely due to her legitimate and peaceful work in the defense of human rights, and the exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

2. Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and activists including leading human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and GCHR/BCHR Director Nabeel Rajab.

3. Drop all charges against human rights defenders held on 'politically motivated' charges.

4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

The GCHR and BCHR call the government's attention to the rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the United Nations "Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms", in particular to Article 5 (b) which states that: "For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups;" Article 6 (c), which stipulates "Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters"; and to Article 12.2, which provides that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration".

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