By Anders Jerichow
Why is it always the victim that has to be patient with his antagonist?
In the 1980s, a British prisoner in a Saudi prison was visited by his consul. The prisoner had been abused and had lost a third of his weight. His back was ruined and there had been attempts to rape him. But the consul leaned over to the prisoner and said: “Remember, we need them more than they need us”. In other words, endure your violent prison guards.
With that sort of logic, one could argue that the hunger-striking Bahraini-Danish activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja should be happy that his case is to be re-tried.
It was a military court that sentenced al-Khawaja to life – and life in Bahrain means life - in prison on June 22 last year. Now the Court of Cassation – the supreme court of appeal in Bahrain – has ruled that the case was flawed. It has to be tried again, this time in a civil court.
Should al-Khawaja be happy? He was beaten unconscious by hooded agents when he was arrested in the middle of the night. He was abused while he was in police custody. He was tortured, subjected to attempted rape, and for the past few months has only had his life as a weapon. That is why he went on the hunger strike that is close to costing him his life, while Bahrain’s royal Khalifa family has ignored the issue.
King Hamad al-Khalifa will say that the new decision is proof that Bahrain is a constitutional state that respects the rule of law.
But if the Khalifa family was just, it would say enough is enough. It is time to set free al-Khawaja. The ‘crime’ that Al-Khawaja has been sentenced for is simply that he has used his human rights – in particular his freedom of speech, his right to organise an opposition and his right to criticise his country’s establishment. And it is highly worthy of note that he has not been found guilty of violence, or for inciting others to use violence.
On the other hand his court case hitherto has been plagued with scandalous errors, and the Khalifa royals have refrained from prosecuting those of their own agents who have abused al-Khawaja.
As a result, four senior United Nations human rights rapporteurs have insisted that al-Khawaja be set free. Just as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others of the world’s largest and most respected human rights organisations have also done. Denmark, Great Britain and the United States have all urged Bahrain to end this shameful affair by letting al-Khawaja be treated in his second homeland, Denmark.
The royal Khalifas are attempting to justify themselves by pretending to have an impeccable legal system. Of course a civil court is better than yet another military affair.
But how long must al-Khawaja pay for the mistakes of his suppressors? How long must he endure, in order that they can build up a frontispiece of ‘credibility’?
There is no doubt that the Khalifa family decides in Bahrain. Everyone knows that if the King and his family decided to release al-Khawaja, he would be free before the ink was dry.
More weeks or months of a new court case will only prolong the torture that al-Khawaja has already been subjected to.
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