GCHR: Bahrain: Authorities refuse to release Zainab Al-khawaja's baby, risking his health while she is ill


On 22 May 2016, imprisoned human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja informed her family that she had fallen ill with the flu and was unable to take care of her 17-month-old son Abdulhadi, who is currently in prison with her. She also feared Abdulhadi would catch her sickness. Al-Khawaja’s husband went to the prison and requested to take his son out until his wife recovered from her illness. The prison administration told him that it was not allowed, and that the baby could not leave the prison, regardless of Al-Khawaja’s health situation. Upon hearing that, Al-Khawaja’s mother, Khadija Al-Mousawi, also went to the prison in an attempt to speak with them directly. After waiting for several hours outside the gates, she was told that she will not be allowed to take her grandson out. She then requested to be allowed into the prison to care for her daughter and grandson, a request that was also rejected.

“It has become clear to me that my grandson Abdulhadi is no longer only accompanying Zainab in prison, but rather a prisoner himself who cannot leave regardless of the situation,” Khadija Al-Mousawi noted.

On 09 May 2016, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Zainab Al-Khawaja and a Russian female prisoner would be released as foreign nationals on humanitarian ground because of their children.


This followed a statement made on 07 April 2016 after her arrest on 14 March 2016 by the Foreign Minister during a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry, in which he said that Zainab Al-Khawaja would be released. After the second statement, Zainab and the Russian prisoner met with the head of the prison administration, who informed them that they were not obliged to act upon the Foreign Ministry’s statement. She added that she had spoken with the sentencing judge who had confirmed that as far as they are concerned, there was no decision to release Zainab Al-Khawaja or the Russian prisoner.

Al-Khawaja is sentenced to a total of three years and one month in prison, on a variety of charges including two sentences for ripping a picture of Bahrain’s monarch and one year in prison for allegedly “insulting” a police officer. All charges against Al-Khawaja are related to her exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. For more information see: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1203

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses its concern about the ongoing judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain and reiterates its calls on the authorities to:

  1. Release Zainab Al-Khawaja, her son Abdulhadi and all human rights defenders in Bahrain immediately and unconditionally and ensure their protection from any harassment, torture, and persecution in relation to their peaceful human rights activities.

  2. Overturn prison sentences handed down against Zainab Al-Khawaja in all these cases that contravene international law;

  3. End the judicial harassment of Zainab Al-Khawaja; provide a birth certificate to her son and renew her passport; and

  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.