The release of prisoners of conscience is a step towards social justice
On 20 February of every year, the countries of the world celebrate the "International Day for Social Justice", which was formally adopted by the United Nations in 2007, as a confirmation of the fact that social justice is a fundamental principle of peaceful coexistence that creates prosperity, development and the preservation of human dignity.
At a time when the world is witnessing a great state of poverty and conflict and the most prosperous societies witness the widening of inequalities, the Declaration focused on ensuring that everyone has a fair share of the fruits of globalization, which is provided through employment opportunities, social protection, social dialogue and the implementation of basic principles and rights.
Social justice is the outcome of a system of political, economic, and social choices aimed at eliminating the large economic differences between classes of society on the horizon of building that society in which justice prevails in all its aspects, rather than being confined to the justice of the law only.
The political, economic and social upheavals that Bahrain is witnessing today have significantly affected the security and stability of individuals and groups and ravaged the possibilities of coexistence. The situation has been exacerbated by the deterioration of the human rights situation from restricting freedom of expression of opinion, confiscation of freedom of assembly and association, and widespread impunity. That is alongside other violations such as arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, revocation of nationality, torture and ill-treatment, unlawful raids of homes and residential facilities, hate speeches, extrajudicial killings and others. This is in addition to discrimination in the rights of citizenship, jobs and administrative positions, scholarships, and marginalization against parts of the social components.
Besides many international resolutions and national laws of the countries of the world, social justice is still a distant dream for many people because of the political crises, economic agonies and wars that these countries suffer from, such as poverty, famines, denial of human rights and interstate wars between peoples that have put stability, equality and tolerance in peril.
The human being is in dire and permanent need for social justice, as it is an integral part of ensuring a decent life, and this will be achieved only through providing the real opportunities he deserves, and obtaining the privileges that make him a citizen of his country, and obtaining his fair share of its wealth, and guaranteeing his political rights from freedom of thought and expression, health care, education and shelter, and sincere participation in drafting the national decision.
On this occasion, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the government of Bahrain to pay more attention to achieving sustainable development, and it reaffirms its importance for the immediate release, compensation and rehabilitation of all prisoners of conscience, and for the need to provide justice to victims and hold perpetrators accountable, and to ensure the right of the people to achieve equality and social justice for all.
9 years since the popular movement in Bahrain, amid an increase in the violations
It is the ninth anniversary of the outbreak of the popular movement demanding democracy in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, when the people expressed their will to be liberated from discrimination and oppression and their insistence on achieving their right to freedom, democracy and dignity.
With the international community continuing to shamefully deal with human rights issues in Bahrain, especially the humane suffering of prisoners, the official authorities have not held those responsible for torture and other forms of ill-treatment despite the establishment of oversight mechanisms as recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).
In this regard, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights monitored the overall number of violations between the years 2011 and 2019, which can be summarized as follows:
- More than 14,000 cases of arbitrary detention, including more than 5,000 victims of torture and ill-treatment.
- More than 1700 cases of arbitrary detention of children.
- 810 cases of revocation of citizenship of Bahraini citizens based on political and malicious reasons.
- 4997 injuries due to the suppression of peaceful gatherings, while the peaceful gathering is completely prohibited since 2014 due to the opposition’s boycott of the parliamentary and municipal elections, in addition to the suppression of hundreds of peaceful assemblies since 2011.
In addition, according to the report of the International Center for Criminal Policy Research, Bahrain was ranked first according to the percentage of prisoners in the Middle East compared to the population, with a prison population of 301 per 100,000 inhabitants, and death sentences amounted to 36 rulings.
The most important forms of deteriorating human rights conditions in Bahrain are highlighted in restricting freedom of expression, confiscation of freedom of assembly and association, and widespread impunity. The rate of violations that include arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, revocation of nationality, torture and ill-treatment is also increasing, along with illegal raids of homes and residential facilities and violations of freedom of movement, prosecutions of activists, the transmission of hate speeches, and extrajudicial killings. As well as the dissolution of opposition political associations and the escalation of repression against civil society, where the National Security Agency was employed to pursue human rights and political activists in the torture cellars to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate human rights activities through the use of multiple methods of torture and coercion, including: electrical shocks, sexual harassment and the threat of targeting relatives.
It is worth mentioning that the most prominent human rights defenders in Bahrain are in prison and face ill-treatment, including Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who spent two years in prison for "spreading false news, statements and rumors about the internal situation of the Kingdom" as alleged by the authorities. Then, he immediately returned to prison again to serve a 5-year sentence for his tweets in which he criticized torture at the "Jaw Central Prison" in Bahrain and the Saudi-led military operations in Yemen. The Court of Appeal in Manama endorsed the last conviction, as it accused Rajab of "broadcasting false rumors in wartime", "insulting regular bodies" and "insulting a foreign country (Saudi Arabia)", and Rajab is detained since June 2016 until today, despite suffering from a serious skin disease, despite repeated international calls for his release, the authorities have not paid any attention to this, and have continued to imprison him, and issued in 2018 another arbitrary ruling against him.
And based on the foregoing, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the Bahraini authorities to allow the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, freedom of expression, and torture to visit Bahrain immediately to meet with civil society representatives, as well as interview detainees, assess the human rights situation in the country, and work to transfer their recommendations to solve this crisis.
In addition, we call on the government of Bahrain to fulfill its promises made during the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Bahrain to support international standards that protect the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, including taking immediate steps to:
- Revoke the convictions, which followed unfair trials, of protesters, human rights defenders and activists, including Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja, Nabeel Rajab, Dr. Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, and Naji Fateel, and release them immediately without conditions.
- Ensure the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Bahrain in all circumstances, put an end to torture and ill-treatment in prisons, police stations or secret locations and bring the perpetrators to justice immediately.
- Allow foreign NGOs, journalists and UN representatives to visit Bahrain freely.
- Respect for the right to freedom of expression and opinion of all people in Bahrain, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution of Bahrain.
- End the harassment of journalists and allow everyone to do their job without fear of reprisal.
World Interfaith Harmony Week
The world celebrates the World Interfaith Harmony Week from February 1 to February 7 of each year, by a decision of the United Nations General Assembly affirming that mutual understanding and interfaith dialogue constitute two important dimensions of the global culture of peace and interfaith harmony, noting the urgent need for dialogue between different religions, to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation between people.
The UN General Assembly also encourages all countries to support this week to spread the message of harmony through churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship of the world, on a voluntary basis and in accordance with convictions, which makes this World Week a way to promote harmony among all people regardless of religion.
With the emergence of modern administrative and legal organization, the legislation came to reinforce and standardize what was already recognized within Bahraini society. As the Constitution of Bahrain stipulates in Article 22 that: "freedom of conscience is absolute, and the state guarantees the inviolability of places of worship, and freedom to perform religious rites, processions and religious meetings in accordance with established customs in the country".
In terms of numbers, the number of mosques in Bahrain currently stands at about 1171, and the number of Maatams is about 620, while the licensed churches number to 18. It is noteworthy that the establishment of the National Evangelical Church came before more than 100 years, and is considered the oldest church in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Bahrain also hosts one of the oldest Hindu temples that was established 200 years ago, in addition to four other sub-temples, and is currently building the largest Catholic church in the Arab world.
The main problem today with this issue is the management of endowments.
The Awqaf (endowments ) was established in Bahrain in 1927 and has been lacking administrative and financial independence since its foundation, and this is in contradiction with international laws granting sects, religions and boredom independence in managing their religious affairs without prejudice to their right to practice rituals and manage private religious affairs in accordance with their beliefs.
From January 13 to January 30, 2020, Bahrain witnessed successive events. Among these events was the summoning and arrest of a number of Shiite clerics due to religious sermons. Among these events were also the arrest of 19 people, including at least five children, from January 13 until January 26, 2020.
From January 13 until January 30, 2020, the security authorities summoned 5 religious clerics, who were Qasim Zainuddin, Abdul-Zahra al-Samahiji, Sheikh Ali Al-Jadhafsi, Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Jamri and Sheikh Ali Rahma, and arrested 3; Abdul-Zahraa Al-Samahiji, Qasim Zainuddin, and Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Jamri on charges of insulting the companions of the Prophet Muhammad
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights considers that the Bahraini authorities continue to impose their tight security grip and impose more stringent measures to restrict freedom of expression and immediately punish people who try to express their opinions peacefully or when they have an opinion contrary to the government’s opinion.
On this occasion, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights recalls the urgent need to affirm interfaith harmony, believing that everything that prevails in the world does not change the principle that pluralism of religions is the essence of human culture
BCHR urges again the immediate release of Nabeel Rajab, without conditions
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.
Today, February 4, 2020, Nabeel Rajab, who is prominent human rights defender and Deputy Secretary-General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), is entering his fourth year in detention, after he was sentenced to several years in prison for his activities, defence, peaceful commitment, and calls to respect human rights.
Nabeel Rajab is one of the most prominent human rights defenders around the world and is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the founding director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), the Deputy Secretary-General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and a member of the Human Rights Watch Advisory Committee in the Middle East and North Africa.
BCHR recalls that Rajab has been detained since his arrest on 13 June 2016 until this moment and has been placed in solitary confinement most of the time during the first nine months after his arrest, in violation of United Nations laws regarding pre-trial imprisonment, and that Rajab was subjected to ill-treatment. His books, clothes and personal belongings were confiscated and his cell was repeatedly raided at night.
On December 31, 2018, the Court of Cassation upheld a five-year prison sentence on Rajab, on the background of his tweet on his Twitter account claiming torture in prisons and criticizing Bahrain's participation in the Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen.
Rajab, who has already spent two years on other charges related to peaceful expression, is slated to remain behind bars until 2023. It appears that he has at times been subjected to negligence in medical treatment that may amount to arbitrary punishment, causing his health to significantly deteriorate.
It is noteworthy that, in August 2018, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for the immediate release of Nabeel Rajab, saying that his detention was not only arbitrary, but also constituted discrimination based on political or other opinions, as well as on his status as a defender of human rights.
The case of Rajab is part of a much broader campaign. Since 2012, Bahrain’s courts have sentenced at least 40 Internet users to more than 842 months in prison for expressing on the Internet, and Bahrain’s Minister of the Interior, Lieutenant General Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, recently announced another campaign against citizens who criticize the government on social media.
In light of all of the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights urges the Bahraini authorities to release Nabeel Rajab immediately and without any restriction or condition, to cancel the judgments against him, drop all charges against him, and to pledge an immediate, impartial, independent, and effective investigation of his allegations of mistreatment during periods of time of his imprisonment. BCHR also called on the results of this investigation to be made public and any suspects with criminal responsibility to be brought to justice within fair, transparent and impartial procedures.
The continued deterioration of the situation of prisoners and an invitation to improve prison conditions in Bahrain
The last week of January 2020 was alarming in regards to the ill-treatment and neglect of medical care provided to prisoners of conscience.
One week ago, the prisoner, Elias Al-Mulla, (sentenced to 15 years), was released after spending five years in prison while suffering from cancer, after a campaign calling for his release in order to receive medical care after years of neglect that led to the aggravation of his health situation.
On Friday 31 January 2020, the former prisoner Hamid Khatam passed away; Khatem was released in 2017, a year after his arrest, as a result of his illness, and to receive treatment abroad, but he recently suffered a setback and passed away.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) still emphasizes on the need to develop ways of dealing with prisoners in accordance with international norms and laws, as well as providing medical treatment for the patients among them and improving prison conditions in terms of providing adequate medical care and developing the general environment of health facilities. It was reported that there is lack of hot water in Sanitation in the winter and this is one of the causes of sicknesses, as well as the low level of hygiene in prisons and detention centers, due to the limitation of cleaning materials and even the prevention of prisoners from purchasing them.
BCHR considers that the conditions of prisons in Bahrain need to be fundamentally and comprehensively addressed, ensuring that prisoners receive all their legitimate rights, and to improve the general situation in places of detention and imprisonment. That is especially needed since mass issues have occurred such as collective poisoning or mass infections such as scabies, and some other skin diseases. The affected were transferred to isolated wards, which further intensified their health and psychological suffering.
There is also a continued complaint of neglect in providing medical treatment, and of the poor level of health care in the prison clinic, which is usually limited to the dispensing of painkillers, which leads to the continuation of diseases and even their aggravation. That is of course, along with the difficulty of obtaining a transfer of emergency cases quickly to central public hospitals including difficult and chronic ones such as sickle cell anemia and cancer, as in the cases of Al Mulla, Khatem, and others.
It is a matter of concern that the Bahraini authorities continue to market the idea that prisons in Bahrain adhere to the highest standards of prisons in the world, which is an incorrect claim that is not supported by facts, as evidenced by the persistence of complaints of preventing prisoners from receiving treatment even in difficult and advanced cases of illness. It was reported as well, that prisoners complain of the lack of medication for patients, as well as continued ill-treatment and solitary confinement . Last October, Human Rights Watch issued a report on seven sick detainees (including al-Mulla) subjected to health neglect, and demanded their release and the cessation of reprisals. Also, last November, four UN experts published a letter to the Bahraini authorities that included ten cases of political prisoners subject to medical neglect.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights considers that it has become urgent for the authorities in Bahrain to adhere to the following:
- Organizing a series of field trips to assess the prison situation, with the aim of developing appropriate plans to improve their conditions;
- Developing treatment with prisoners in accordance with relevant international laws and regulations;
- Providing adequate medical treatment for sick prisoners and improving prison conditions in terms of providing adequate health care and improving sanitary facilities and others.
- The release of prisoners and detainees held on the background of their demands for democracy and human rights.
Bahrain: the death of two persons within days due to illness they suffered while in prison
Monday 03 February 2020, Sayed Kadhem Abbas Hashem, aged 23, died as a result of suffering from the illness he had sustained while he was detained by the security authorities since 2015 on charges of illegal gathering and riots.
Sayed Kadhem developed a cancerous brain tumor while he was in prison, which led to the deterioration of his health, and his family reports that he did not have any health problems before his detention, but he started complaining of pain in his head continuously. His family asserts that whenever he complained to the prison administration about what he was suffering from and demanded to be taken to the hospital, he didn’t receive any response and was told: "You suffer from nothing". His family says that they have repeatedly appealed to the prison administration to provide the necessary and adequate health care to their son and transfer him to the hospital, but to no avail.
Sayed Kadhem suffered from the deliberate delay in providing medical care by officials at the Jaw Central Prison, a prison where convicts are serving their sentences in Bahrain, and he was suffering from severe pain in the stomach, back, and nose. Only when these pains increased abnormally, the prison administration took him to the hospital, where he was told that he had a cancerous brain tumor.
In 2018, he was operated and subsequently lost his sight, and in July 2018, he was released after his health deteriorated until he died, on Monday 03 February 2020.
In 2015, Sayed Kadhem was arrested from Bahrain International Airport, after which he was severely tortured and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for riots and illegal gathering before the sentence was reduced to 5 years; he served 3 years of the sentence before being released due to his health situation.
One of the persons who shared the same prison as Sayed Khadem reported to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) that: "Sayed Kadhem was always suffering from back pain and severe headache and he kept asking the prison officials to take him to the hospital for many continued hours, but to no avail. When his condition worsened, Sayed Kadhem began to vomit loudly, and prison officials came to him not to take him to the hospital, but to make fun of him, saying: “What an actor you are!” and they laughed at him”.
The witness reports that many times, Sayed Kadhem was waking up from his sleep in the middle of the night due to the severity of the pain he was suffering from, and his brother who is convicted in the same cell asked the officials to take him to the hospital, then the officials came and took him out of the cell and forced him to walk when he could not even move from the pain. The officials used to take Sayed Kadhem out of the cell not to take him to the hospital but to leave him in one of the prison corridors to suffer and sleep on the ground until the morning when he was brought back to his cell. When officials brought him back, they told his brother: "Your brother has improved his condition so tell him to stop lying and acting again, or we will transfer him to the solitary confinement."
Sayed Kadhem is the second victim of the negligence of the authorities in providing the necessary health care to prisoners. Last Friday, 31 January 2020, Hamid Khatem died, after suffering from stomach cancer after his arrest and neglect of his health condition by the prison administration. He was released in 2017 and traveled directly to India for treatment where he passed away.
In 2016, Hamid Khatem was arrested on charges of insulting the King of Bahrain via tweets he posted on Twitter, and in the same year, he was sentenced to two years in prison in the same case before the sentence was reduced to one year.
BCHR considers that what Hamid Khatem and Sayed Kadhem Hashem were exposed to reflect the situation and the real environment in which prisoners live in prisons and detention centers, where dozens of prisoners in Bahrain suffer from delay and neglect in obtaining medical care by the prison administration. Many of them resort to go on hunger strikes to demand basic rights such as the right to medical treatment, which usually results in the prison administration punishing them by preventing them from family calls and visits or by transferring them to solitary confinements.
There is no doubt that obtaining medical care inside the prison is a basic right that the prisoner must obtain without effort, and in accordance with internationally guaranteed and legitimate rights. BCHR considers that the failure of prisoners to obtain the appropriate medical care and treatment is a clear violation of the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners while the documentation of two deaths due to failure to receive timely treatment is a contempt for these rights and those involved in this must be held accountable.
Accordingly, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the Bahraini authorities to:
- Initiate an immediate investigation into the death of Sayed Kadhem Hashem and Hamid Khatem
- Investigate the causes of cancer occurrences in the prison
- Stop all measures taken by prison officials that lead to the neglect of prisoners' access to the right to treatment and necessary medical care.
Arbitrary detention is a violation of human rights
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the systematic policy of enforced disappearance of citizens, and affirms that "the widespread and arbitrary detention by the government is a violation of human rights in accordance with international laws and covenants."
BCHR considers that the regime in Bahrain violates the internationally stipulated conventions that criminalize enforced disappearance as defined by the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as follows: “Arrest, detention, kidnapping, or any form of deprivation of liberty is carried out at the hands of State officials, persons or groups of individuals who act with permission or support from or with the consent of the state, followed by a refusal to recognize the deprivation of a person's freedom or the concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which deprives him of the protection of law”, (Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from The disappearance Series).
At a time when Bahrain praises itself at international forums for promoting inter-religious tolerance in an attempt to cover the current crises in the world, religious persecution in Bahrain is growing; five clerics have recently been targeted and finally arrested on 20 January 2020, among whom cleric Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Mulla Attiya al-Jamri who was imprisoned for 7 days pending an investigation. On the same day, the cleric, Sheikh Ali Rahma, was called in for investigation because of a religious sermon.
Also, on 13 January 2020, the Bahraini security authorities decided to arrest Cleric Mulla Abdul Zahraa al-Samahiji (39 years) for a period of 7 days pending an investigation, due to a religious sermon. On 21 January 2020, the Public Prosecution decided to renew his detention for a period of 15 days, pending investigation. The Capital Police Directorate said that it summoned and arrested Al-Samahiji for delivering a sermon "on one occasion that included legal violations", alleging that he had publicly assaulted "the Prophet’s Companions", noting that the case was referred to the prosecution.
Also, on 29 January 2020, the Bahraini security authorities decided to arrest Sheikh Mulla Qasim Zainuddin, who will be brought before the prosecution, as well as for Sheikh Ali Al-Jadhafsi, who was summoned again the day before.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the regime's systematic policy in the series of arrests and demands that religious rights and freedoms be provided for everyone alike, and that these rights and freedoms are not limited to one component of another, they are the right of all and must be available to all.
Based on the above, BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other relevant international institutions and human rights organizations to put pressure the government of Bahrain to:
- Disclosing the fate of the detainees and release them immediately;
- Join the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance;
- Put an immediate end to the practice of enforced disappearance as a way to punish opponents and activists.
Bahrain: Arrest of the historical researcher Jassim Al Abbas
The authorities in Bahrain arrest the historical researcher Jassim Al Abbas after summoning for interrogation. The Public Prosecution decided to detain him on charges of publishing false information.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses deep concern over the Bahraini authorities' ongoing restrictions on public freedoms, especially the freedom of expression; those who practice this right, those who speak different opinions or are inconsistent with the views adopted by the official authorities are often targeted and punished. On 29 January 2020, the Bahraini authorities arrested the historical researcher Jassim Hussain Al Abbas, after he received a phone call requesting his presence at the Criminal Investigation Directorate in Adliya.
It is worth noting that Jassim Al Abbas is a Bahraini researcher and investigator and is the owner of the largest website and blog that is interested in publishing investigations on Bahraini history; “Years of Al Jarish” who has worked on many topics and investigations in Bahraini history.
The arrest of the researcher Al Abbas came after he published a historical research on his blog, on the social networking site Instagram, "Years of Al Jarish", about the history of a mosque that dates back to an ancient era. This post was deleted after the arrival of Al Abbas to the criminal investigation building, and according to the received information, the Public Prosecution accused the researcher of publishing false information through his recent research on the historic mosque, relating to the post that was deleted after his arrest. It is in this context that the public prosecutor ordered the arrest of Al Abbas for a period of seven days pending investigation.
The authority in Bahrain imposes strict measures and suffocating restrictions on freedom of expression, as it issued many tightening laws in previous periods increasing censorship on social media, and the authority is also working to punish people who express their views clearly through social media sites such as "Twitter and Instagram”, which is a violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly stating the right to freedom of expression and the right to information and its dissemination.
Although BCHR believes in the necessity of publishing and circulating the correct information, it believes that the arrest of the Al Abbas makes up one of many cases of the violation of the freedom of expression in Bahrain where opinions that do not coincide with the government’s policy are often targeted, as in the case of Nabeel Rajab, prominent human rights defender, who is serving a prison sentence for charges related to freedom of expression.
BCHR also considers that what the Bahraini authorities are doing confirms what human rights organizations and international bodies go about regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain and the restricted freedom of expression. It is a measure that is constantly taken against individuals who publish information on their blogs or websites; these individuals are targeted and their blogs or websites are often blocked. For instance, the Bahraini authorities have been blocking the website of BCHR for years because of its work and publishing of information about human rights issues and violations taking place in Bahrain.
Therefore, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls on the Bahraini government to:
- Immediately release the researcher, Jassim Al Abbas;
- Stop targeting people who express their opinions; and
- Stop all measures taken that would impose more restrictions on freedom of expression and other basic freedoms.
After nine years of crisis, the standards for respecting human rights in the Kingdom of Bahrain do not seem to be on the path to improvement. The almost-daily reports received indicate the widening circle of violations of political and civil rights, from arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, unfair trials, torture, and the revocation of nationality, and other practices that it undertaken by security and judicial services in the Kingdom against the human rights and political movement.
Under international law, torture is considered a crime subject to universal jurisdiction and its perpetrators can be prosecuted in any country, and states must arrest and interrogate anyone on their soil suspected of involvement in torture, and prosecute or deport him to face justice.
The crime of torture is one of the main pillars of the tools for suppressing freedoms and violations in Bahrain, and it is a key pillar of the security doctrine, since 2011 the authorities have been working to develop patterns of torture and abuse in prisons.
In 2017, Bahrain ranked first in the Middle East in terms of the prison population, according to the Prison Studies list, published by Prison Studies.
New statistics for 2019, published by the Committee to Protect Journalists, showed that Bahrain ranks tenth around the world in terms of detaining journalists, and according to the committee’s numbers, Bahrain is still arresting 6 media workers: blogger Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, photographer Ahmed Humaidan, journalist Ali Mearaj, photographer Hassan Qamber, journalist Mahmoud al-Jaziri and photographer Sayed Ahmed al-Musawi.
According to the report, the number of sentences for revocation of citizenship reached 308 cases, and 129 Bahraini citizens were sentenced to life in prison, and the courts also ruled to deport ten Bahrainis, knowing that the constitution prohibits the deportation of any citizen or prevent him from entering the country.
As for the cases that were tried, according to the report they amounted to 1155 cases in various levels of litigation, while the number of raids of homes and establishments reached 1056 cases.
The campaign of persecution and repression also affected prisons in Bahrain, as Amnesty International constantly receives complaints related to the often-deliberate poor health care, the latest of which is the prisoner of conscience, Mohsen Badaw stating that: "Scabies and skin allergies became like a fire raking the bodies of detainees inside Jaw Central Prison, and every day the numbers increase despite the isolation of the injured”.
Rights sources reported that "Badaw" had been infected with scabies for 6 months, and that the disease had spread throughout his entire body, which caused him a marked deformity, and are concerned that it would reach his face and eyes, as all treatments do not work under the current circumstances, pointing that he and the detainees are demanding the elimination of the insect, changing bed sheets, mattresses, and clothes, ventilating the place, and relieving overcrowding in the cells, while providing them with appropriate treatment, and stopping the policy of stalling by the prison administration regarding these demands.
Also, the prisoner of conscience, Ayoub Adel, said that he suffers from severe pain, and that he is not taken to the prison clinic and the prison administration does not listen to his requests to see a doctor, and he explained that his pain reached his back, and that he needs to perform surgery. Adel stressed that there is a health negligence in prison, and there is no care, that he can barely walk on his feet, and that he demanded to get the right to receive the necessary treatment, especially as his condition gets worse day by day, and he cannot sleep normally.
It is reported that the detainee Ayoub Adel was injured in the leg, and he underwent surgery before his arrest to straighten the leg, and he still needs follow-up. He was arrested on May 14, 2015, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment on political grounds.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights recommends the release of all political detainees, and an independent investigation of all complaints of torture and the prosecution of violators, in addition to establishing a binding mechanism to implement the recommendations of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva, and to allowing the United Nations special rapporteurs to visit Bahrain and lift restrictions on international human rights organizations.
Individual liberty is one of the most fundamental of human rights, recognized in international human rights instruments and national constitutions throughout the world. However, the government of Bahrain still considers imprisonment as a natural form of punishment.
Even though Bahrain recently witnessed the release of a number of prisoners within the Alternative Penal Code, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) considers that the implementation of this law should not be lengthy in order to ensure its efficiency.
Overcrowded prisons increase health risks and decrease psychological well-being. Overcrowding can be decreased by reducing the number of incarcerated people. Hence, BCHR emphasizes that alternatives will have a measurable effect on the number of prisoners.
However, the goal of introducing alternatives to prison is not only to address the problem of overcrowding in prisons; given that imprisonment inevitably infringes human rights and that it is expensive, there are also economic arguments in favor of alternatives.
Furthermore, the wider use of alternatives inspires a fundamental change in the approach to human rights in general. Alternative sentencing gives inmates the opportunity to go to treatment and get the medical help they were denied.
Despite this step towards a this positive direction taken by the government of Bahrain, the share of political prisoners and detainees on issues related to freedom of expression is very small and negligible. Consequently, the number of people who will advantage from these alternatives is small.
Therefore, BCHR hopes that the next number of released prisoners will be greater than the previous one, and to be extended beyond sick prisoners.
Thus, through this statement, BCHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to include Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, among the released prisoners.