9,000 Bahrainis have been arrested since 2011 over political charges. 1300 of them remain in jail till today amid very difficult detention conditions, deliberate ill-treatment, and systematic medical negligence.
Prisoners in Bahrain are suffering due to poor conditions and lack of adequate medical care, says a new report by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB).
The report says, “The prison conditions remained poor, and there have been persistent reports of failure to provide adequate medical care to prisoners in Bahrain. In addition to overcrowding, the sanitary conditions in Jau prison are inadequate, and the hygiene and sterilization procedures are deficient,” which led to two outbreaks of Covid-19 in 2021.
Adequate medical care denied
There are recent concerns about reports of tuberculosis in Jau prison in 2022, with sick prisoners not being segregated from ill inmates, and facing reprisals for protesting and demanding tests.
Since the end of May, prison authorities disregarded at least two prisoners with symptoms of tuberculosis for over a week without testing them. A third prisoner who was granted hospital care, was returned to the prison two days after a doctor told his family he has tuberculosis.
Political prisoner Hassan Abdullah Habib was informed by doctors in the hospital that he had tuberculosis but he was transferred back to prison, despite being contagious. At least three other prisoners had symptoms of the disease.
Another prisoner who has been subjected to mistreatment and abuse is Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, a prominent opposition figure and human rights defender and a member of the group known as the “Bahrain 13”. Dr. Al-Singace began a liquids-only hunger strike on 8 July 2021 to protest against ill-treatment and harassment in Jau prison.
He resorted to a hunger strike after negotiations with the prison administration had failed to recover the cultural research he had worked on for four years. He has not seen his doctor since January 2022 and his family says the “authorities regularly withhold sugar and milk from him in an effort to make him end his strike.”
Prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former president and co-founder of BCHR and GCHR, has repeatedly protested poor conditions in prison, including denial of medical treatment. Al-Khawaja was awarded the 2022 Martin Ennals Award for his ongoing activism.
“In Bahrain’s prisons, your basic needs such as food, medical treatment, communications with family, sleeping hours, access to open air, or even access to the toilet all are used to provoke you, oppress you, or punish you and eventually to undermine your integrity, self-confidence, and self-respect,” Al-Khawaja said.
Prisoners’ families have been sounding the alarm and raising complaints given that no measures have been put in place to protect other prisoners from this contagious airborne disease. In one egregious case, prison authorities failed to move a fourth prisoner with tuberculosis to a hospital until he had been sick for almost a year and was semi-paralysed.
Global Rights Watch calls on the Bahraini government to respect its international obligations, mainly the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and to respect prisoners’ rights established by the Rehabilitation and Reform Foundation Act and its Implementing Regulations in line with the Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and to amend the provisions that are incompatible with the last rules.
The organisation also launched an urgent appeal to the international community and international human rights bodies to pressure the Bahraini authorities to put an end to the ongoing human rights violations against political detainees.