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A coalition of human rights activists demands an end to the slow death policy in Bahraini prisons

The coalition of 14 international organizations called on the Bahraini authorities to halt the slow killing and ensure appropriate medical treatment for the human rights defender, opinion detainee Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja, in Bahrain’s prisons.

The organization pointed out that in a joint letter published on May 4, 2023, six United Nations experts – including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, and the Deputy Head of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mumba Malila – expressed grave concern over the continued arbitrary detention of human rights defender Mr Al-Khawaja.

The United Nations letter addresses allegations of torture, mistreatment, and poor prison conditions for Mr. Al-Khawaja, including threats and restrictions on communication with his family and the deprivation of his basic rights.

It also highlights his inability to appoint his own lawyer in court when necessary, the handcuffing of his hands despite contrary medical orders, and the fabrication of charges against him and other political prisoners in Bahrain.

The United Nations letter was sent to the Bahraini government on February 17, 2023, and remained confidential for 60 days, as is the case with United Nations protocols. The Bahraini government responded to the six United Nations experts on April 17, 2023, and the response has recently been translated and made public.

In response, the Bahraini government denied that Mr. Al-Khawaja had been subjected to torture. This contradicts the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, established by the King of Bahrain, which documented medically that Al-Khawaja had been subjected to torture and sexual assault by security forces in 2011.

Furthermore, the Bahraini government failed to address Mr Al-Khawaja’s status as a human rights defender or the arbitrary nature of his detention.
On multiple occasions, Mr. Al-Khawaja attempted to receive information via phone about the nature of the United Nations’ communications, including the response of the Bahraini government, but the authorities systematically cut off the calls.

Therefore, Mr. Al-Khawaja formally requested that his lawyer provide a hard copy of the documents mentioned. The signatories call on Bahrain to ensure compliance with the request.

Additionally, Mr. Al-Khawaja has been repeatedly denied access to an appointment with a heart specialist and other relevant doctors, despite the risk of a heart attack or stroke at any time.

In the past two weeks, Al-Khawaja has been denied two medical appointments, the latest being on Thursday, May 11, 2023.

Since May 9, 2023, Al-Khawaja has been conducting a daily protest in the courtyard of Jau Prison, holding up two signs in front of closed-circuit television cameras stating, “Denying treatment is slow organized killing” and “You practice torture and prevent treatment” to allow him and his fellow opinion prisoners to receive necessary medical appointments.

He informed his family on May 14, 2023, that he temporarily suspended his protest due to promises made by the prison administration to improve conditions and allow access to proper treatment.

The organizations called for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defender Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja and all other opinion prisoners.

They emphasized the need to transfer Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja to the necessary medical appointments for diagnosis and treatment, ensuring that he receives the required documents related to the United Nations complaint, and allowing him to provide a written response.”

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