Bahrain: Joint letter to Joseph Biden and Mette Frederiksen on the worrying situation of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

Open Letter
Aboodi Vesakaran via Unsplash

1 June 2023. Ahead of the Danish Prime Minister’s visit to the White House on June 5, 2023, human rights organisations, including FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, encourage President Joseph Biden and Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to discuss the case of Danish-Bahraini human rights defenders Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, arbitrarily detained since 2011 and sentenced to life imprisonment. The signatory organisations draw attention to the worrying state of health of M. Al-Khawaja.

1 June 2023

Dear President Joseph Biden and Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen,

Ahead of your meeting on Monday June 5 we strongly encourage you to discuss mutual collaboration on the case of the only Danish prisoner of conscience in the world: Danish-Bahraini human rights defender Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.

We are grateful for the United States and Denmark’s vocal support on human rights and democracy. The Biden-Harris Administration has committed to putting human rights and democratic principles at the center of the US foreign policy, and human rights play a central part of the Danish Government’s newly published foreign policy strategy. We furthermore welcome the commitment from both countries to protect and support human rights defenders.

The Danish-Bahraini citizen Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was violently arrested, severely tortured, and sentenced to life imprisonment in Bahrain in 2011. Mr. Al-Khawaja’s detention was declared arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2012, and yet he continues to sit in a prison cell 12 years later with serious health issues.

The State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices identified a litany of serious violations of human rights by Bahraini authorities, including inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment by the government. Mr. Al-Khawaja has systematically been denied medical treatment, including after experiencing urgent heart problems in the beginning of March 2023. He is also systematically denied contact or visits from his lawyer.

We congratulate the deep and enduring ties between the United States and Denmark. We are certain that if you decide to collectively raise the case of Denmark’s only prisoner of conscience, the United States and Denmark can together successfully secure the unconditional release of Mr. Al-Khawaja as well as his transfer to Denmark.

Thank you for your consideration, and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you further. We wish you a fruitful meeting.


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