Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Frontline writes to Sh Hamad concerning attack on women

H.M Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa.
King of Bahrain, Royal Court
Office of His Highness the Amir, P. O. Box 555
Rifaa Palace, Manama,
Kingdom of Bahrain

16 January 2008

Re: Attack on women including woman human rights defender Zainab Abdulhadi Al Khawaja

Your Excellency,

Front Line is deeply concerned following an attack on woman human rights defender, Zainab Abdulhadi Al Khawaja; journalist Rabar Marhoon; twelve women, and two children on 25 December 2007. The women were attacked by members of the Special Security Forces (SSF) and the Women's Police while they participated in a peaceful demonstration at the Prosecutor's Office on 25 December 2007. The demonstration had been organised in order to protest against being denied access to their imprisoned relatives by the Prosecutor's Office.

In total fourteen women and two children were attacked (aged twelve and fourteen years old). Allegedly, members of the Women’s Police used violence in order to disperse the demonstration. Zainab Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and Rabar Marhoon were physically assaulted by members of the Women’s Police. A number of journalists were not allowed to take photographs and were harassed and searched by members of the police. A number of the demonstrators were hospitalised shortly after the demonstration. Front Line believes that the fourteen women and two children, including Zainab Al Khawaja and Rabar Marhoon were targeted due to her peaceful and legitimate activities in the defence of human rights. Front Line has written to you on 10 January 2008, in relation to the arrest of 50 people including 11 human rights defenders from 21st to the 28th December 2007, by members of the SSF.

Front Line calls on the authorities in Bahrain to:
l Initiate an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack against Zainab Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, Rabar Marhoon and the twelve other women and two children, by the SSF and the Women's Police;
l Take measures to guarantee access to families of political prisoners and detainees;
l Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders and organisations are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment;
l Take measures to ensure that all human rights defenders in Bahrain, carrying out their legitimate work in human rights, are able to operate free of restrictions and harassment.
Front Line respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals.

We would particularly draw attention to Article 6 which states that: Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters.

Yours sincerely,
Mary Lawlor
Natacha O'Brien
Protection Coordinator
Front Line
The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
81Main StreetBlackrockCo
skype: natacha.frontline
Direct Tel: +353 1 2100485
General Tel: +353 1 212 3750
Fax: + 353 1 212 1001
Webpage: www.frontlinedefenders.org