GENEVA (22 June 2021) – A UN expert called on Bahrain to immediately release three human rights defenders suffering long term detention as a result of their legitimate promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
Human rights defenders Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, whose detention was declared arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and Mr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, were sentenced to life imprisonment on terrorism related charges in 2011. Another defender, Mr. Naji Fateel was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2013 for “forming illegal organizations”. Reportedly, these organizations worked to promote and protect human rights in the country.
Mary Lawlor, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said she had received reports that Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja had suffered facial fractures, while Mr. Naji Fateel and Mr. Abduljalil Al-Singace had been placed in solitary confinement and denied basic medical care and their right to practice their religion. It was also reported that Mr. Abduljalil Al-Singace had been forced to make confessions and his religious books were taken away.
“The fact that their health continues to deteriorate in prison is very concerning,” she said. “I urge the State to conduct an impartial and independent investigation into the allegations of torture while in prison.”
Other human rights defenders such as Abbas al Omran and Ali Abdulemam were tried in absentia and sentenced to 15 years in prison for forming an illegal organization and spreading false information. They have been granted asylum and currently reside outside of the country. In 2012 and 2015, Bahraini authorities revoked their citizenship.
“The criminalization of human rights defenders in retaliation for their legitimate and peaceful efforts to advocate for the rights of others in Bahrain is concerning not only for the detrimental impact on the lives of those individuals and their families, but for the chilling effect it creates on civic space in the country,” Lawlor said.
The expert is in contact with the authorities on this matter.
Lawlor’s comments have been endorsed by Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.