September 18, 2014 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Release Maryam Al-Khawaja and end clampdown on civil society in Bahrain

HM Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa

Office of His Majesty the King

Rifa’a Palace,



Dear King Hamad,

We, the undersigned 155 civil society organisations based in over 60 countries write to you united in our condemnation of the politically motivated arrest of human rights defender and co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Maryam Al-Khawaja at Manama airport on 30 August 2014. We urge that Maryam is immediately and unconditionally released.

We believe that Maryam Al-Khawaja is being persecuted for exercising her legitimate rights to freedom of expression and association in the defence of fundamental freedoms including her co-operation with international institutions and her important role in documenting human rights violations in Bahrain. We stand in solidarity with Maryam and all other human rights defenders wrongly imprisoned by your government for their work and beliefs.

We remind you that the harassment, intimidation or stigmatization of a human rights defender, including arrest, detention, trial or imprisonment for reasons of the opinions they may hold, constitute a serious violation of Bahrain’s obligations under international law.

We remain concerned that since the pro-democracy protests intensified in February 2011 your government has deliberately subverted democratic freedoms using a combination of legal and extra-legal measures involving politically motivated prosecutions, brutal crackdowns on protests and silencing expressions of dissent in the print and online media. Many have raised the concern about the arbitrary detention of hundreds of pro-democracy activists and their being subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention centres across Bahrain.

At the UN Human Rights Council, during Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2012 your government agreed to protect human rights defenders and allow them to conduct their work without hindrance, intimidation or harassment. On 5 September 2014, a group of United Nations independent human rights experts also demanded Maryam Al-Khawaja’s release, and urged you to follow through on your commitments made during the UPR to end the persecution of all human rights defenders in Bahrain. We support Maryam’s courage and strength for advocating for democratic change.

We urge your government to recognise the legitimate demands of the Bahraini people for their rights and end the cycle of protest and repression. We thus call upon you to begin a process of democratic reform, healing and reconciliation in Bahrain. Key steps towards achieving the above would be to release all detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience and cease the oppression of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society organizations.


1. African Life Center – USA

2. African Women's Active Nonviolence Initiatives for Social Change
(AWANICh) - Democratic Republic of the Congo

3. Aithria Agro-Environmental Research and Action Team – Greece

4. Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) - Bangladesh

5. Aman Network for Rehabilitation & Defending Human Rights – United

6. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) – USA

7. Andalus institute for tolerance & Anti-violence studies – Egypt

8. Arab Network for Democratic Elections – Lebanon

9. Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) – Lebanon

10. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) – Egypt

11. ARTICLE 19 – UK

12. Asian Human Rights Commission – Hong Kong

13. Asian Press Institute – Sri Lanka

14. Association Dea Dia from Serbia - Serbia

15. Association for Progressive Communications – South Africa

16. Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) -Canada

17. Association Transparence et Développement (ATED) – Mauritania

18. Avocats Sans Frontières Network – France

19. Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) – Bahrain

20. Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO) - Bahrain

21. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) – United Kingdom

22. Bahrain Rehabilitation & Anti Violence Organization (BRAVO) - Bahrain

23. Bahrain Salam for Human Rights – United Kingdom

24. Baidarie Pakistan – Pakistan

25. Belgrade Center for Human Rights - Serbia

26. Bishkek Feminist Collective SQ – Krygzistan

27. Building More Future Opportunities and Capacities (BMFOCA) – Nigeria

28. Burundi Child Rights Coalition (BCRC)– Burundi

29. Bytes for All – Pakistan

30. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) - Egypt

31. Campaign Against Ignorance & Illiteracy (CAII) - Nigeria

32. Cambodia Center for Human Rights (CCHR) – Cambodia

33. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) – Canada

34. Center for Peace Education - USA

35. Center for National and International Studies (CNIS) – Azerbaijan

36. Center International Training for Human Rights and Development –
Democratic Republic of the Congo

37. Center of studies on Justice and Resolution of 1325 – Democratic Republic of
the Congo

38. Charity and Security Network - USA

39. Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea – United Kingdom

40. Civic Initiatives – Serbia

41. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation - South Africa

42. Civil Rights Defenders - Sweden

43. Coalition pour le Development et la Rehabiniltation Social (CODR UBUNTU)
– Burundi

44. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) – South Sudan

45. Concertation Nationale de la Société Civile du Togo (CNSC Togo) - Togo

46. Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE) –

47. Counseling Center for Transgender People Association – Turkey

48. Danish PEN – Denmark

49. Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) – Philippines

50. Democracy Monitor – Azerbaijan

51. Diverse Voices and Action for Equality - Fiji

52. East and Horn of African Human Rights Defenders Project - Uganda

53. Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms – Egypt

54. Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) - Egypt

55. Elma7rosa Network for Advocacy Media& Arts - Egypt

56. English PEN – UK

57. Ethiopian Human Rights Project - Ethiopia

58. European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR) – Switzerland

59. European Women’s Lobby – Belgium

60. European Saudi Organizations for Human Rights - Germany

61. Federation of African Muslim Women in America (FAMWA) – USA

62. Families of Desaparecidos for Justice - Philippines

63. Foundation of The Victims Of Abduction And Forced Disappearance (FVAFD)
– Egypt

64. Fontaine-ISOKO for Good Governance and Integrated Development- Burundi

65. Freedom International – Ghana

66. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human
Rights Defenders, France

67. Freedom House – USA

68. Freddom Now - USA

69. Frontline Defenders – Ireland

70. Ghanaian Centre of PEN International - Ghana

71. Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) –USA

72. Groupe des Experts Nationaux - Madagascar

73. Gulf Civil Society Association Forum - Kuwait

74. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) - Lebanon

75. Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly – Turkey

76. Human Rights Center "Viasna" – Belarus

77. Human Rights Concern Eritrea – United Kingdom

78. Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS) – Netherlands

79. International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran – USA

80. International Centre for supporting Rights and Freedoms (ICSRF) - Egypt

81. International Commission of Jurists – Switzerland

82. International Pen, San Miguel Chapter – Mexico

83. International Service for Human Rights - Switzerland

84. International Solidarity Network Women Living Under Muslim Laws - USA

85. International Youth Human Rights Movement – Russia

86. Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) – UK

87. Lualua Centre for Human Rights(LCHR) - Lebanon

88. Justice for Iran (JFI) – United Kingdom

89. KAOS GL – Turkey

90. Karapatan Alliance - Philippines

91. Khiam Rehabilitation Center For Victims of Torture – Lebanon

92. Kitgum Women Peace Initiative (KIWEPI) - Uganda

93. Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) – Serbia

94. Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs (LDGL) –
Democratic Republic of Congo

95. Ligue Algerienne Pour la Defense des Droits de l (LADDH) - Algeria

96. Maharat Foundation – Lebanon

97. Martin Ennals Foundation – Switzerland

98. MENA Monitoring Group - Tunisia

99. Middle East Democracy (POMED) – USA

100. Mpalabanda - Associacao Civica de Cabinda - Angola

101. Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres de Puerto Rico – USA

102. Monitoring of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia

103. Muslim Women's Research and Action Forum – Sri Lanka

104. Nasra for Feminist Studies – Egypt

105. New Bakkah Foundation – Switzerland

106. National Lawyers Guild - USA

107. National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms - Yemen

108. National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) – Somalia

109. No Peace Without Justice – Italy

110. World Organisation Against Torture, within the framework of the
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders – Switzerland

111. Pacific Feminist SRHR Coalition – Australia

112. Palestinian Conflict Resolution / Transformation Center – Palestine

113. PEN Center – Nicaragua

114. PEN American Center – USA

115. PEN International - USA

116. PEN International Women Writers Committee – Egypt

117. Policy Center – Serbia

118. Pusat Komas - Malaysia

119. Reporters sans frontières (RSF) - France

120. Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
– Cameroon

121. Right Defenders Lawyers & Consultants (RDLC) – Pakistan

122. Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association - Turkey

123. Shia Rights Watch - USA

124. Social And Human Development Consultative Groups (SAHDCG) – Sudan

125. South African Centre of PEN International –South Africa

126. Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes de Violences Sexuelle –
Democratic Republic of the Congo

127. Secularism Is a Women's Issue – UK

128. Society of Former Political Prisoners Against Arrest and Detention in the
Philippines – Philippines

129. South Sudan Law Society (SSLS) – South Sudan

130. Synergie des Associations Feminines du Congo - Democratic Republic of
the Congo

131. Swiss Italian PEN – Switzerland

132. Tanzania Human rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) – Tanzania 133. Teso Women Peace Activists (TEWPA) - Uganda

134. The Training Nest - Sri Lanka

135. Three Cities Foundation – Malta

136. Trans-der – Turkey

137. Transparency International – Bangladesh

138. Ucan Supurge Women's Association – Turkey

139. Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC) – Zambia 140. Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights - USA

141. Un Ponte Per- Italy

142. Union Nacional de Instituciones para el trabajo de accion Socilal – Bolivia

143. Vivarta - UK

144. West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN) - Togo

145. Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) – Liberia

146. Women Peace Initiatives-Uganda (WOPI-U) - Uganda

147. Women and Allies Peace Builders Network – Burundi

148. Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) – Philippines

149. Women’s Resource Center – Pakistan

150. Women's Solidarity Fund – UK

151. World Movement for Democracy - USA

152. Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) – Zambia

153. Zeugmadi LGBT- Turkey

154. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum – Zimbabwe

155. 1325 Policy Group – Sweden