- As previously stated, over four weeks ago, Al-Khawaja was taken to an emergency hospital due to an urgent heart issue, then denied access to a cardiologist.
- Al-Khawaja was subsequently denied two planned appointments, on the 19th of March, and on the 26th of March respectively.
- Yesterday, on the 6th of April, Bahraini authorities put out a public false statement about Al-Khawaja’s health while also claiming that Al-Khawaja had his appointments canceled because he refused to comply with the instated regulations
- In a call with his daughter the same day, Al-Khawaja corrected the false statement yet again confirming that he had agreed to comply with all the regulations to go see a doctor despite their negative impact on his health, prompting him to say “When I look at the full picture, I can only conclude that it is a kind of a slow death, they are trying to end our lives by not providing treatment and health care”
On the 6th of April, a statement was published by “Bahrain Government Hospitals” on the Bahrain News Agency (in Arabic only) claiming that Al-Khawaja “recently underwent the necessary medical care, which proved that he did not suffer from any heart or chest problems” as well as claiming that he had “had two medical appointments on March 26, 2023 to conduct medical examinations in the heart and prostate, but he refused to be transferred to the hospital using the bus designated for transporting inmates from the reform and rehabilitation center to the hospital”.
After learning about this statement, Al-Khawaja called his daughter to correct two inaccuracies in the false statement.
- As previously stated, Al-Khawaja told his daughter that he was compelled to accept all regulations to be transported to the appointment. On the call he said:
“I was due to be taken to the hospital [on the 26th of March]. I was compelled to accept to go with the ‘Turkish bus’. I agreed that they could place the restraints on my hands while I am at the military hospital and despite this, they refused to take me. Since the early hours of the morning I was awake and ready, but in the end they did not take me.”
- On the call, Al-Khawaja dismantled the credibility of the statement by the government hospitals. He stated:
“During the time of back and forth with the authorities, the people involved were the officer, who is responsible for the building, and the police, who are in charge of the internal and external movements. I did not see any responsible individual who is related to medical affairs; not a nurse, not an administrator individual, no one was involved except the police and the officer. So how come the Government hospitals are stating that I have refused to go to the hospital? […] This is evidence that now they are using the name of the Ministry of Health and the hospitals only to issue statements on their behalf despite their lack of knowledge or details.”
The tough measures are only getting harsher
The regulations related to the transportation of prisoners to and from medical and judicial appointments have been toughened during the past months. Prior to approximately a year ago, the prison administration and the doctors could decide to exempt the prisoners from the measures, which include transportation on the so-called “Turkish bus” and applying handcuffs. Now, the measures are only getting harder, and it appears to be under the direction of the Undersecretary of the Minister of Interior, Nasser bin AbdulRahman Alkhalifa.
These tougher regulations are being applied not only to Al-Khawaja, but the other prominent prisoners as well. Abdulwahab Husain and Sheikh Abduljalil Al-Miqdad are two recent examples where the Bahraini authorities have denied them important medical appointments. Al-Miqdad has staged a protest in the prison yard for two days due to being denied access to his medical appointments despite agreeing to transportation methods that would impact his health negatively.
A slow death
The general situation, especially the denial of access to adequate medical treatment, in the prison has been heavily criticized by international actors many times before. Explaining the situation, Al-Khawaja stated: “When I look at the full picture, I can only conclude that it is a kind of a slow death. They are trying to end our lives by not providing treatment and healthcare. Especially with the cases that are much worse than mine. It seems this decision has been made at the highest levels”.
Maryam Al-Khawaja, daughter, commented: “It is symptomatic of the Bahrain regime to put out an official statement falsely stating why my father was not taken to his appointments – including an urgent check-up with a cardiologist following his worrying heart issue more than a month ago. They’re damaging my father’s and other prisoners of conscience’s health to a degree where they will either die in prison, or suffer after they’re released.
My father is a torture survivor, a prisoner of conscience and UN-declared arbitrarily detained. He should never have been imprisoned to begin with, but 12 years later we are still fighting to ensure he is given access to adequate medical treatment for conditions mostly caused by the Bahrain regimes own torture. He and all other prisoners of conscience must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), commented: “For the last several years we have been following a dangerous trend by the Bahraini government of consistent practice of intentional medical neglect toward senior political prisoners. There is no explanation to such heinous practice except a clear intent by the government to cause serious physical harm to those political leaders which lead to slowly ending their lives.”
Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja is a prominent Danish-Bahraini human rights defender who was detained in 2011 in Bahrain after leading peaceful protests calling for fundamental freedoms and rights in Bahrain. Almost 12 years later, he remains at Jau Prison facing dire prison conditions and systematic denial of medical treatment.
In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry documented that Al-Khawaja was subjected to torture and sexually assaulted by security forces in 2011.
In December 2022, an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament passed a resolution recognizing that Al-Khawaja suffers from a series of chronic and degenerative health problems, which is a direct consequence of his imprisonment, torture and deprivation of access to medical care. The European Parliament furthermore acknowledged that the prison authorities at Jau Prison have been denying Al-Khawaja adequate medical treatment.
On the 3rd of April, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern about the deteriorating health of Al-Khawaja, calling on the Bahrain government “to provide urgent medical care & immediately release him”.
On the 6th of April, Radio France Internationale reported that since the 8th of March “about 50 detainees at Bahrain’s Jau prison are refusing to return to their cells and are camping out in the corridors. They are demanding an improvement in their detention conditions, which are regularly denounced by human rights organisations.”