PHR Calls on Government of Bahrain to Release Abdulhadi al-Khawaja

Those detained for adhering to professional duties or exercising basic freedoms must also be released

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) calls for the immediate release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a Bahraini human rights defender and democracy activist who reportedly faces death after a nearly two-month long hunger strike.

Al-Khawaja was arrested one year ago in the wake of popular protests against the Bahraini government and was sentenced to life in prison. While in detention, al-Khawaja allegedly suffered torture and severe ill-treatment.

To protest his ongoing detention and mistreatment, al-Khawaja began a hunger strike on February 8. His health is rapidly deteriorating, and his family reports that his life is in danger. PHR calls on the Government of Bahrain to immediately release Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, allow an impartial investigation of allegations of torture and ill-treatment during his detention, and hold all perpetrators of torture accountable for their actions.

PHR remains concerned about individuals in Bahrain, including medical professionals and democracy advocates, who continue to face detention conditions and abuse similar to that suffered by al-Khawaja.

A group of twenty medical professionals who were arrested, detained, and sentenced to long prison terms for providing medical care to protesters reported torture in detention. These allegations were confirmed through independent evaluations by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

While most of the medical professionals arrested and charged following the protests are now released from detention pending an ongoing trial, three other medics are currently serving two to three year sentences.

PHR calls on the Government of Bahrain to immediately release the three medics, Hassan Matooq, Younis Ashoori, and Ahmed Ali Al Moshatat, and all others who are imprisoned for adhering to professional duties or exercising basic freedoms.

In response to international pressure, the US Administration has withheld a $53 million arms sale to Bahrain; however the Administration continues to deliver smaller amounts of military assistance to Bahrain.

The Administration should take a stronger public stance against the ongoing detention of Al-Khawaja and other prisoners of conscience by publicly demanding their immediate release. The United States should also call on Bahraini authorities to establish independent and efficient mechanisms to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment in detention, as demanded in the report of the BICI. 

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