Jailed Bahraini rights activist at risk of going blind over denied medical care, warns Amnesty

Jailed Bahraini rights activist at risk of going blind over denied medical care, warns Amnesty
Al-Khawaja has suffered multiple incidents of torture and maltreatment throughout his detention, activists say.
3 min read
02 April, 2022
A Bahraini protester carries a poster of jailed activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja as people gather for a protest calling for his release [Getty]

Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is being denied treatment for suspected glaucoma and risks going blind, Amnesty International has warned in a statement on Friday.

Prison authorities have denied medical care for Khawaja since early February after the rights activist stood in the prison yard and chanted slogans in solidarity with Palestinians during Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's visit to Bahrain. 

His daughter Maryam Al-Khawaja believes that his medical treatment is being withdrawn as a part of reprisal for the incident.

"We're very worried about my father who called this morning and said he won’t be allowed to make any more calls, and was chanting Free #Bahrain, Free #Palestine," she tweeted on Thursday.

She also released recordings on Twitter from phone calls and information about the state of her father's health. 

"We are very concerned about the health of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, whom his daughter says is being denied medical treatment for suspected glaucoma, which could lead to blindness، as a result of the injuries he sustained back in 2011 when he was subjected to torture,"  Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa said in a statement.

"This is the latest show of cruelty by the Bahraini authorities who have a track record of medical neglect of prisoners,"  Maalouf said. "Healthcare in Bahrain’s prison system is marred by regular instances of denial of medical care, delay, and arbitrary exercise of authority, which in specific cases rise to the level of intentional ill-treatment.

"We call on the authorities to immediately ensure he receives the medical treatment and care he needs and remind them that medical negligence could amount to a violation of the right to health."

Next Saturday, Khawaja will mark 11 years since he began life imprisonment for his involvement in the Bahraini uprising in 2011 under spurious terror charges. 

The former Gulf Centre for Human Rights president was a high profile activist in the country for over 20 years before his imprisonment.  

He has also remained politically active throughout his imprisonment, taking part in hunger strikes over prison conditions in Bahrain and chanting in solidarity with Palestine on several occasions. 

"The human rights situation has not improved during 2021," said the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights on Friday. 
"The authorities are still intolerant to dissent and criticism and restrict the Bahrainis’ exercise of internationally-guaranteed fundamental rights," the group said in its annual report. 

"Overall, the government does not seem to have any intention of genuine reform. The human rights situation is in a state of stagnation with no signs of drastic changes so far," it added.