Bahrain today refused entry to Lars Aslan Rasmussen, a Danish Member of Parliament, and to Brian Dooley of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), claiming the two posed a “security risk.”
The two arrived in Bahrain around 2am local time in an attempt to visit jailed human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a Danish citizen and founder of GCHR. Al-Khawaja was arrested in April 2011, tortured, and given a life sentence after an unfair military trial.
“We came to show that Al-Khawaja and the other human rights activists in prison are not forgotten, and to remind the Danish government that it should be pressing much harder for his release,” said Rasmussen.
The pair arrived as Bahrain prepares to host this week’s Formula One race. Dooley has documented human rights abuses in Bahrain since 2011 and has been banned from the country for six years, as have GCHR staff.
“Bahrain needs to be constantly challenged about it torture, its targeting of human rights activists, its banning of the political opposition,” Dooley said. “Preventing members of parliament, human rights groups and journalists from entering the country shows how much the regime has to hide. Formula One fans planning to arrive this week should know what they’re getting into. Bahrain has become an out and out police state.”
Al-Khawaja is former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), a former Middle East and North Africa Protection Co-ordinator for the Dublin-based international human rights organisation Front Line Defenders, a member of the International Advisory Network of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, and the winner of several international human rights awards. He founded GCHR days before his arrest on 09 April 2011.
Since then, Bahrain’s leading human rights defenders have been forced into exile or, like Al- Khawaja, Nabeel Rajab and Naji Fateel, sentenced to long prison terms after unfair politicised trials.
“Al-Khawaja is a Danish citizen and I came to Bahrain to meet him, and to tell him that we are raising his case in the Danish parliament and across Europe. He is a peaceful human rights leader, respected across the world for his work. It’s a scandal we were prevented from entering the country to see him,” said Rasmussen.
Human rights organisations, international journalists, and foreign politicians are routinely denied entry to Bahrain.
Rasmussen is a member of Denmark’s Social Democratic Party, and Dooley is on the Advisory Board of the GCHR, a regional organisation which provides support and protection to human rights defenders in the Gulf region and neighbouring countries.