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Bahraini activist Zainab Al Khawaja arrested, detained along with infant son

Zainab Al Khawaja and her two children
Zainab Al Khawaja and her two children

Gulf Center for Human Rights

This statement was originally published on gc4hr.org on 14 March 2016.

Human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja has been arrested from her house along with her 15 month old baby Abdul-Hadi at at 3:45 pm today Bahrain time. According to her family, police went into her in-law's house asking for her. They were carrying cameras and videotaping everything. When they could not find Zainab there after having searched the house, they went to Al-Khawaja's apartment where she was with her husband and two children. There were approximately 15 riot police jeeps that closed off the entire street in front of the apartment building. A group of riot police, plain clothed police and female police then arrested Al-Khawaja and her 15 month old son. They presented a warrant of arrest. Al-Khawaja called her family from Al-Hoora police station and told them she will be taken to the Ministry of Interior for a medical check up and then to Isa Town Women's Prison.

On 2 June 2015, Woman human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to nine months in prison after trying to visit her father, human rights defender and co-founder of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, in Jaw prison in August 2014 when he was on hunger-strike. That sentence was upheld on 2 February 2016 in absentia.

On 3 December 2015, Al-Khawaja also lost her right to appeal in three other cases that were heard in court. Two charges of two-month sentences were first handed down on 9 December 2014 for “destroying public property” when she ripped a picture of the King at Budaiyah police station, as well as a charge of allegedly “insulting a public official” (a police officer), for which she was sentenced to one year in prison. On her birthday on 21 October 2015, the court reduced a three-year sentence to one year for ripping up a picture of Bahrain's monarch during a court hearing in October 2014.

She is sentenced to a total of three years and one month in prison, on a variety of charges including two sentences for ripping a picture of Bahrain's monarch and one year in prison for allegedly “insulting” a police officer. Furthermore, her one-year-old son is being denied a birth certificate and documentation and her own passport has not been renewed.

The GCHR believes that the timing for this arrest are likely to be in response to the work of Zainab Al-Khawaja's sister and GCHR Co-Director Maryam Al-Khawaja. Maryam just attended the Human Rights Council's 31st session, and was also currently in Zurich for the FIFA elections during which Shaikh Salman Alkhalifa lost his presidential bid.

The GCHR expresses its concern about the ongoing judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain and calls on the authorities to:

  • Release Zainab Al-Khawaja, her son and all human rights defenders in Bahrain immediately and unconditionally and ensure their protection from any harassment, torture, and persecution in relation to their peaceful human rights activities.
  • Overturn prison sentences handed down against Zainab Al-Khawaja in all these cases that contravene international law;
  • End the judicial harassment of Zainab Al-Khawaja; provide a birth certificate to her son and renew her passport; and
  • 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.

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