More than four months since a crackdown on protests took place in Jaw Prison, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is seriously concerned about the treatment of prisoners who were hurt during the incidents in March, notably human rights defender Naji Fateel, a Board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. In addition, human rights defender and blogger Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace has been on hunger strike for over four months in protest of the treatment of prisoners, causing serious concerns for his health.

Naji Fateel, who was jailed for 15 years for his human rights activities in 2013, was reportedly badly hurt during the events of 10 March when a protest by prisoners was violently suppressed, even though he was a bystander.  In April, GCHR received reports that Fateel was among prisoners being subjected to “physical and psychological torture,” and that he had suffered a broken leg and nose. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/998

Fateel is currently being held in ward 10 at Jaw Prison, which is famous for harassment of prisoners. He has reportedly not received proper treatment for his injuries even though he and his wife submitted several complaints to the General-Secretariat for Grievances in Bahrain, from which there was no response.

On 23 July, Fateel appeared before the 4th division of the High Criminal Court in relation to the Jaw Prison protests on 10 March. Fateel was transferred to the court where he was spotted with a shaved head, a procedure usually used to punish prisoners. He is accused of the following three charges: alleged assault of a public servant, damage to public property, and burning public property. The hearing was adjourned to 17 September.

Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace has been on hunger strike since 21 March 2015 to draw attention to poor prison conditions and torture, including the violence that occurred in Jaw Prison on 10 March. He is part of the group of activists and human rights defenders known as the Bahrain 13, which also includes GCHR Founding Director Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the peaceful protests in 2011. Both men have alsoprotested the treatment of prisoners of conscience. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1006

Dr. Al-Singace remains in Al-Qala’a hospital, where he has been kept since 1 April after he collapsed due to the deterioration of his health since he began his hunger strike. Dr. Al-Singace is taking liquids, is on an intravenous drip and getting basic treatment to respond to the health implications of the ongoing hunger strike. His family says hesometimes needs to be taken to Bahrain Defence Forces (BDF) hospital for treatment, but they won’t take him because he refuses to wear the prison uniform.

 

He is in need of treatment for a sore disc in his neck and lower back for which he needs physiotherapy, needs urgent surgery for his ear and nose, and requires a white blood cell count test. As of 22 July his white blood cell count was 3400, whereas it should be 3800.

 

As well, the prison authorities in Jaw Prison set the visit dates for Dr. Al-Singace according to their whims. They sometimes set visits after three weeks and not the standard two. His nephew passed away and the prison authorities refused to give him a condolence visit for it. They are also not allowing him to see his lawyer.

 

The prison authorities came up with new regulations and tried to force the Bahrain 13 to wear the prison uniform (which Dr. Al-Singace refuses to wear because he believes that he is not a criminal, but a prisoner of conscience.) Previously he stopped receiving visits for 10 months in 2013-2014 because of this requirement, which Al-Khawaja has also protested. The prison authorities also tried to implement the humiliating physical body search, where prisoners are forced to take their clothes off and wear a light piece of cloth in order to be searched.

 

The authorities are reportedly ignoring his concerns about prison conditions, apart from a visit from the General-Secretariat for Grievances in Bahrain on 7 July after 100 days of hunger strike, and a phone call from an officer to check on his condition.  Dr. Al-Singace told the Ombudsman he wouldn’t submit to wearing the prison uniform in order to go for medical tests and checkups. According to his family, he said, “I’m a respectable person, many officials in this country were taught by me. I’m being punished and humiliated further by making me look like a criminal. I refuse humiliation and insults. I’d rather die here than accept this.”

 

GCHR joined other NGOs to express concern for Dr. Al-Singace earlier this month and call for his freedom. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1039

 

Recommendations:

The GCHR expresses its concern about the ongoing poor treatment of jailed human rights defenders in Bahrain and calls on international supporters to:

1.     Take action and sign a petition posted online by PEN International for Dr. Al-Singace at http://www.pen-international.org/newsitems/bahrain-serious-concern-for-the-health-of-academic-activist-and-blogger-dr-abduljalil-al-singace/.

2.     You can also send a letter to Dr. Al-Singace in prison via this link.

 

The GCHR calls on Bahrain’s authorities to:

1.   Free Naji Fateel, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and all wrongfully detained human rights defenders who are in prison for exercising their right to freedom of expression;

2.   Investigate allegations of poor conditions and the torture of inmates in Jaw prison;

3.   Ensure human rights defenders are protected from any harassment, torture, and persecution in relation to their peaceful human rights activities; and

4.   Provide detained human rights defenders proper medical care and attention, and the rights afforded to prisoners under the UN's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

 

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