Bahrain: End illegal detention of human rights defender


The continued detention of Maryam Al-Khawaja in Bahrain is a flagrant violation of international law and part of a pattern of systemic harassment and attacks against human rights defenders in the country, ISHR said today.

(Geneva) - The continued detention of Maryam Al-Khawaja in Bahrain is a flagrant violation of international law and part of a pattern of systemic harassment and attacks against human rights defenders in the country, the International Service for Human Rights said today. 

The statement comes as more than 150 non-governmental organisations from around the world wrote an open letter to the King of Bahrain calling for her immediate and unconditional release.

Al-Khawaja has been held in 'preventative detention' since 30 August when she was detained by Bahraini authorities while en route to visit her father in prison, whose own detention has been condemned by a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention as unlawful.

After appearing before a Bahraini court on 16 September, Ms Al-Khawaja's detention was extended until at least 1 October, purportedly to enable the further investigation of allegations that she assaulted police officers who denied her entry to the country to visit her critically ill father.

'Maryam's continued detention on charges which she vehemently denies is manifestly incompatible with the prohibition against arbitrary detention contained in Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is party,' said ISHR Director Phil Lynch.

'Even if one were to accept that the charges are not fabricated and vindictive, they are clearly not serious enough to justify continued detention for over a month,' Mr Lynch said.

ISHR has previously expressed concern that, in addition to being arbitrary, Ms Al-Khawaja's detention also raises serious questions as to Bahrain's compliance with Article 14 of the ICCPR, which protects the right to legal counsel and a fair trial, together with Articles 19, 21 and 22, which protect the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. There are also concerns about the impartiality of the prosecutor in the case, who has previously been accused by Al-Khawaja and others of targeting human rights defenders.

'Regrettably the trend of fabricated charges and judicial harassment against human right defenders in retalitation for their exercise of the basic rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest is becoming more widespread,' Mr Lynch said.

'ISHR reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of Maryam Al-Khawaja, together with all other human rights defenders being held in contravention of international law or in connection with the exercise of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.'

'ISHR also reiterates its call for the UN Human Rights Council and Members - including the US, UK and other EU States - to increase pressure on Bahrain to release Al-Khawaja and to immediately end the detention and harassment of human rights defenders in the country,' Mr Lynch said.

'Maryam is a clarion voice for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It is incumbent on States that purport to hold those values dear to raise their voices more clearly and forcefully for her,' Mr Lynch said.

For updates on the detention and condition of Maryam Al-Khawaja, follow her on Twitter @MARYAMALKHAWAJA.

Maryam Al-Khawaja is Co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights and a Board member-elect of ISHR.

Contact: Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights, on or + 41 76 708 4738


  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Bahrain