Update: 19 September 2014: We are happy to let you know that detained Bahraini activist, Maryam Al-Khawaja is no longer in custody. She was released on 18 September by Bahraini authorities although the politically motivated charges against her still stand.
We are overwhelmed by the groundswell of support we received from around the world on Maryam’s plight. Over 150 civil society organisations in over 60 countries joined us in endorsing a letter to Bahrain’s government urging the release of Maryam and an end to persecution of human rights defenders in the country.
The struggle for democracy, justice and civil society space in Bahrain continues
18 September 2014. In a huge global call, more than 150 civil society organisations around the world are calling on the King of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release prominent human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja.
A letter signed by civil society organisations based in more than 60 countries expresses deep concern that Al-Khawaja’s arrest is related to legitimate and peaceful human rights activities calling for democratic reform in Bahrain. “We believe that Maryam Al-Khawaja’s persecution is politically motivated and part of the ongoing repression of civil society in Bahrain,” said Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.
In blatant disregard of its international human rights obligations, the Bahraini government has intensified its clampdown on peaceful human rights advocacy since pro-democracy protests in February 2011. Bahraini authorities have been subverting fundamental rights through politically motivated prosecutions, dispersal of peaceful protests through excessive and even deadly force, and silencing dissent in the print and online media.
Maryam, the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), has been detained for 18 days on alleged charges of “assault and battery against on-duty public employees during their performance of official duty”, and her detention will continue pending her court appearance scheduled for 1 October 2014.
“A woman like Maryam should be awarded and recognised by Bahrain for her great human rights work instead of being arrested and harassed,” said Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).
During a review of its human rights record (Universal Periodic Review or `UPR’) at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2012, Bahrain committed to protecting human rights defenders and allowing them to conduct their work without hindrance, intimidation or harassment. Additionally, at the UNHRC in June this year, 47 states urged Bahrain to release “all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders.” Despite their earlier commitment and the international call, Maryam and hundreds of other human rights defenders and political activists are behind bars for taking part in peaceful assemblies and voicing dissent.
The signatories to the letter are urging the King of Bahrain to release imprisoned human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience and cease all undue and unwarranted restrictions on civil society activism. The organisations are also calling on the Bahraini government to end the cycle of repression against pro-democracy protestors through undertaking democratic reform.
“We call on the government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release Maryam Al-Khawaja as she has been targeted solely due to her peaceful and legitimate human rights activities,” said Khalid Ibrahim, Co-Director of the GCHR.