Age: 54 years
Activism: Human rights defender
Marital Status: Married with four sons
Current Situation: Sentenced to life imprisonment
Abdel-Hady Al-Khawaja is a prominent Bahraini human rights activist, who created his own domain and path that he has never deviated from. He adhered to working with the aim of raising citizens’ awareness of their rights, pressurizing into the abolition of the unjust laws, and supporting the oppressed wherever they are.
At the end of seventies, Al-Khawaja travelled to Europe, where he studied and began his human rights activism; in the aftermath of Bahrain’s political turmoil spurred in the eighties. He became the Co-founder of the Committee to Defend Political Prisoners in Bahrain (CDPPB) in 1982. Al-Khawaja was also granted political asylum in Denmark in 1991. Afterwards, in 1992, he founded, jointly with a group of Bahrainis living abroad, the Bahrain Human Rights Organization (BHRO), which he became its director. And then he was elected as the Secretary-General of the organization.
Upon his return to Bahrain in 2001 following the talk on political reforms, Al-Khawaja established the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). He contributed to the public awareness of human rights through mass popular symposiums and events. Moreover, he trained hundreds of activists and those who are interested in human rights in Bahrain and the Gulf. As a result of his leading human rights activism, Al-Khawaja has been subjected to manifold violations and physical assault, besides his detention several times.
In 2004, Al-Khawaja was detained by the Bahraini authorities on account of a speech, in which he criticized Bahrain’s Prime Minister, and whose title turned into a political slogan chanted by Bahrainis. Following protests staged against the Bahraini government, the human rights activist had been released upon a royal pardon. Since 2007, Al-Khawaja has been suffering crackdown campaign launched by the authorities, in addition to the smear campaign against BCHR. Furthermore, in February 2010, he was banned from travelling and arrested over an accusation of “insulting a public official” after an alleged scuffle with a security officer at the airport.
He participated in the Bahraini uprising coincidently took place with the Arab Spring revolutions. In the meantime, Al-Khawaja was raising the demonstrators’ awareness of human rights issues. As a consequence, in 9 April 2011, some masked policemen stormed his home, and beat him leaving him unconscious. He was, then, taken to the military hospital for an operation that lasted for four hours. In the 8th of May 2011, Al-Khawaja, along with 20 other activists, were referred to the Bahraini Court of National Safety (a military court), on charges of :“managing a terrorist organization, attempting to overthrow the regime by force, coordinating with a terrorist organization that works for a foreign country, and collecting money for a terrorist group”. They, accordingly, were handed down by the court a life imprisonment sentence on 22 June 2011.
In the same context, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation ordered, on 30 April 2012, the re-trial of 21 Bahraini activists, including Al-Khawaja, before the civil court. After a sham trial that lasted for four months, during which 16 hearings were convened, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the ruling issued by the National Safety Court against Abdel-Hady Al-Khawaja. Also, on Monday the 7th of January 2013, the Bahraini Court of Cassation issued a final verdict that cannot be challenged, to uphold the life imprisonment sentences delivered by the military courts. During these trials, some activists refrained from attending the trial hearings, due to their disbelief in the seriousness and the credibility of the trial.
Al-Khawaja occupied several positions in regional and international human rights organizations. He is the former chairman of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and one of his founders. He was a member in the Amnesty International’s Fact-Finding Commission after the invasion of Iraq. He has also become a member of The Arab Group for Monitoring Media Performance since 2005. Additionally, he is a member of the Advisory Board of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies. During 2006-2007, Al-Khawaja was the Middle East and North Africa Protection Coordinator with Front Line Defenders. Furthermore, he was chosen as a member of the International Advisory Network in the Business and Human Rights Resource Center chaired by “Mary Robinson”, former UN High Commissioner for Human Right.
Al-Khawaja was honored for his role in the defense of human rights. In October 2012, he received the Danish newspaper Politiken’s annual Freedom Award, in recognition of his efforts in defending human rights and promoting democracy. He was named as ‘Regional Activist of the Year’ in 2005 by the Arab Program for Human Rights Activists. Also in 2005, he was elected as one of the Arab civil society institutions’ representatives to participate in the Forum for the Future held in Bahrain. He was invited by “Front Line” organization to provide his testimony as a human rights defender in the International Conference of Human Rights Defenders convened in Dublin in 2006, in front of hundreds of governments’ representatives, international bodies and human rights defenders.
What can you do?
1- Send the Head of His Royal Highness the Prime Minister’s Court an e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org
or call: 17200000 – 17200000 demanding from the Prime Minister to release human rights defender “Abdel-Hady Al-Khawaja”
2- Write to Bahrain’s Ministry of Justice & Islamic Affairs at the following address: Kingdom of Bahrain ,Diplomatic Area, Manama P.O.Box 450
or call: 17513000 – Fax: 17536343
Communicate with Ministry of Justice & Islamic Affairs via website: http://www.moj.gov.bh/
calling on the ministry to release human rights activist “Abdel-Hady Al-Khawaja”
3- Send an e-mail to the Shura Council on: email@example.com
demanding from the Shura Council to release human rights activist “Abdel-Hady Al-Khawaja”
4- Write to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders at: firstname.lastname@example.org
5- Publish images of human rights activist “Abdel-Hady Al-Khawaja”, as well as some information about him on your Facebook & Twitter accounts and use this hashtag #حريتهم_حقهم
6- Send some information about human rights activist “Abdel-Hady Al-Khawaja” and the unfair ruling sentenced against him, to newspapers in your country