The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its grave concern in regards to the authorities in Bahrain’s harassment of imprisoned activists. Activist Zainab Al Khawaja is incarcerated with prisoners who have hepatitis A and B, highly contagious infections, without vaccination and the prison administration is ignoring her complaint. During the weekly visit this week, Al-Khawaja's family voiced concern as they noted that she looked pale and had lost a noticeable amount of weight. Also Bahrain13 activists were moved to a smaller area with every four activists in one small cell.

The authorities in Bahrain continue to further escalate harassment of detained activists. Zainab AlKhawaja, a prominent human rights activist, who is serving multiple sentences in Isa Town woman prison, has been a continuous target of harassment by the prison administration. She is currently incarcerated with prisoners who have Hepatitis A and B and has informed the prison administration that she has not been vaccinated. The prison administration is ignoring her complaints which puts her at great risk of infection.

A medical doctor (name with-held for safety reasons) told the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, explaining the nature of the diseases and its risks:

Hepatitis A virus is transmitted through fecal-oral contamination, and there are occasional outbreaks through food sources. Most patients recover within two months of infection, although 10 to 15 percent of patients will experience a relapse in the first six months. Hepatitis A virus does not usually result in chronic infection or chronic liver disease. Hepatitis B virusis transmitted in blood and secretions (e.g., semen, saliva) and is infectious outside the body for seven or more days. Fewer than 5 % of adults acutely infected with HBV progress to chronic infection. A small number (1 %) develop acute hepatic failure and may die or require emergent liver transplantation.

Adding: “The precarious structural and logistical conditions of prisons, which are associated with overpopulation, overcrowding, poor ventilation of cells, poor sanitation and hygiene, poor food quality and so on, are additional risk factors that should be considered per se as additional risk factors for the transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases.

According to medical doctor, both infections are preventable by vaccination and “vaccination programs improve disease prevention … therefore essential to achieve population-based health objectives.”

It is important to note that all prisoners eat together from the same food, which puts them at higher risk of contagion. To add to that, AlKhawaja has been prevented from going outdoors since March 2012, which increases risks of infection and puts her health at risk.

Zainab AlKhawaja was arrested on 27th of February 2013 to serve a one-month sentence for protesting in the Pearl roundabout. While in prison, she received additional imprisonment sentences in three cases. On 22nd of May 2013, the court ruled in the case known as “Abu Saiba” where she was violently arrested while staging a sit-in in Abu Saiba roundabout on the 16th of December 2011. She was handcuffed and dragged on the ground to the police vehicle and detained for a week before she was released pending trial to be sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for charges of “illegal gathering”, “assaulting a female officer” and “inciting hatred against the regime”. She also received imprisonment sentences of 5 months in two other cases for “insulting a public official”, “illegal gathering” and “rioting”. AlKhawaja was subjected to ill-treatment and harassment since her detention in Isa Town women prison where she was denied visitation for months (Read more: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6183). Zainab AlKhawaja has had more than 13 cases against her. (Cases against Zainab AlKhawaja:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JkGo_Uhldvfs3SQbb0TTilzGSxtemKvTmqtwBRB0o_c/edit?usp=drive_web)

Imprisoned political and human rights leaders known as the Bahrain13 are also being subjected to harassment. They have been subjected to severe torture, ill-treatment, denial of visits and medical care since their arrest in 2011. Today, they were moved to another area in Jaw prison that is smaller and in a different building. Every four people are being kept in one small cell (Read more: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/5740).   It should be noted that the Bahrain13 group were placed in a new prison building since their move to Jaw prison in Nov 2011, they were in isolation from the rest of the prisoners. With the growing number of political detainees, the BCHR believes the move came in order to utilize the new building for the additional prisoners. The BCHR continues to receive reports of crowded prison cells while the authorities continue the daily arrests and the delivery of prison sentences.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is extremely concerned in regards to the wellbeing of the detained activists and the continued escalation of harassment and denial of rights prisoners of conscience are being subjected to at the hands of the authorities in Bahrain.

The BCHR urges the international community and in particular the States that are close allies to the Government of Bahrain, to call upon the Bahraini authorities to: 

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Zainab Al-Khawaja and Bahrain13 activists as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain;
  • Immediately remove Zainab AlKhawaja from her cell and provide her with vaccination
  • Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Zainab Al-Khawaja and the Bahrain13 as well as all political prisoners in Bahrain
  • Put an end to acts of harassment against all human rights defenders in Bahrain
  • Ensure that international health standards are upheld for all prisoners in Bahrain to prevent the spreading of illnesses and diseases
  • Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.