The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the news that prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has decided that tomorrow 23 September 2014 will be the last day of his hunger strike. Al-Khawaja is the founder and former head of the GCHR, and the former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).
On 22 September 2014, Al-Khawaja informed his family and administrator of Jaw prison, where he has been imprisoned for the last three and a half years, that Tuesday, 23 September 2014, will be the final day of his 30-day hunger strike.
He also said that, “This will not be the last hunger strike as long as the arbitrary detention continues.” Local sources confirmed that Al-Khawaja ended his hunger strike out of concern for other detained human rights defenders who are on hunger strike in solidarity with him, especially after two collapsed today.
On 16 September 2014, the GCHR and the BCHR urged Al-Khawaja to immediately stop his hunger strike. Their letter said, “We well know your willingness to sacrifice your life for the freedom of the people of Bahrain, as you are about to enter the day 24 of your hunger strike where your life is at grave risk.”
Al-Khawaja in his reply to the letter said, “As the world can see we are in a situation where our only choice to demand rights and freedoms is by risking our lives.”
The GCHR calls on the authorities in Bahrain to:
- Free all prisoners of conscience, including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and other human rights defenders detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly.
- 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 respectfully reminds you that 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, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c): “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.”