Monday, April 30, 2012

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja

Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail Alkhawaja (Arabic: عبد الهادي عبد الله حبيل الخواجة) is one of the most prominent Bahraini-Danish human rights activists. He is currently in prison in Bahrain following the repression on pro-democracy protests in the Bahraini uprising. He is former president and co-founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), a nonprofit non-governmental organisation which works to promote human rights in Bahrain. He has held a number of positions and played various roles in regional and international human rights organizations.

On 9 April 2011, Alkhawaja was arrested and tried as part of a campaign of repression by the Bahraini authorities following pro-democracy protests in the Bahraini uprising. Front Line Defenders expressed fear for his life following allegations of torture and sexual assault in detention. Alkhawaja was eventually sentenced on 22 June 2011, along with eight other activists, to life imprisonment. On 8 February 2012, he started an open-ended hunger strike until "freedom or death" protesting continuing detentions in Bahrain. As of 23 April 2012, Alkhawaja had been on hunger strike for 2 months and 16 days.

Until February 2011, Alkhawaja was the Middle East and North Africa Protection Coordinator with Front Line Defenders – the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. He is also 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 Rights.

Alkhawaja is a member of the Advisory Board of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies and also an expert adviser for and member of the coordinating committee of The Arab Group for Monitoring Media Performance monitoring the media in Bahrain and six other Arab countries. Alkhawaja was part of Amnesty international’s fact finding mission in Iraq. He has been a researcher and project consultant for Amnesty International and other international organizations. His human rights campaigning activities have been acknowledged by the International Conference of Human Rights Defenders in Dublin and he was named by the Arab Program for Human Rights Defenders as its Regional Activist of 2005.

Early Life
After finishing high school in Bahrain in 1977, Alkhawaja traveled to the UK to continue his further education. In 1979, he took part in student activities in London in reaction to demonstrations and arrests in Bahrain. Many students abroad, including Alkhawaja, were denied renewal of their passports and asked to return home. In the summer of 1980, after fellow students had been detained and interrogated under torture for their activities in London and his family’s house had been ransacked and searched, Alkhawaja, fearing detention if he went back to Bahrain, decided to remain abroad.

On April 25, 2012, Alkhawaja was reportedly missing from his bed in the BDF hospital (AKA the military hospital).

His wife Khadija Almousawi said on her Twitter account that since Monday, April 23, she had no news from her husband. She called the military hospital on 25 April, only to be told by a nurse that no one was in the room

Alkhawaja told his family on April 17 that he had removed the intravenous drip keeping him alive. Two days later, during the Bahrain Grand Prix, he decided to stop drinking water and asked to see his lawyer to write his will. He was refused permission to do so.

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