Bahrain must allow medical care for all prisoners of conscience

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”102260″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]As Hassan Mushaima, a septuagenarian prisoner of conscience serving a life sentence in Bahrain, continues to face illegal restrictions on his access to medical care, international NGOs call for full and unrestricted access to medical care in detention for all prisoners of conscience. Our organisations raise deep concerns regarding the inefficacy of Bahrain’s human rights mechanisms in addressing Mushaima’s condition.

Mushaima suffers from a series of chronic medical conditions, including gout, diabetes and erratic blood pressure. He is also a former lymphoma cancer patient. He requires over 15 different types of medication to help with these conditions but has faced restricted access to his medicine. Additionally, his cancer was reportedly in remission as of late 2016, but prison authorities have consistently constrained his access to the regular screenings that he requires to ensure that it has not returned. He also faces restrictive conditions on family visits, with the result that he has not been able to meet with his family since February 2017. While the authorities have recently allowed Mushaima to receive his medication following initial international pressure around his case, they continue to withhold his access to an endocrinologist for his diabetes treatment and cancer screenings. Mushaima and other high profile prisoners of conscience, including Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award winner Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award nominee Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, have also reported that, since October 2017, prison authorities have confiscated all books, including religious books, papers, and writing materials.

The Bahraini government’s illegal restrictions on healthcare violate international detention standards, and prisoners of conscience have been singled out for mistreatment. Prison authorities force prisoners of conscience, including the elderly Mushaima and Dr. Al-Singace, to be strip-searched, chained, shackled, and marched to medical facilities if they want to attend medical appointments. They must face this treatment when attending external appointments, and when transiting within the prison to the internal medical facilities, which they refuse to do. There is no security justification for this treatment, as Mushaima and al-Singace have never presented any security risks in detention, nor posed any flight risk. This treatment is therefore interpreted by the prisoners, and by our organisations, to be both arbitrary and punitive, with the intention to humiliate and degrade prisoners of conscience. Such treatment contravenes the United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Mandela Rules.

On 7 August, Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) released a statement regarding the health conditions of Hassan Mushaima, yet this statement was made without any direct investigation of his condition or consultation with him in prison. The NIHR’s assertions in their statement are misleading and incomplete, and they fail to address core concerns directly raised with the Institution. The statement declares that Mushaima has voluntarily declined medical services to be provided to him and has refused to attend six of his medical appointments in the last six months. What the statement neglects to mention is the degrading treatment Mushaima has endured in order to gain access to medical care.

In choosing to omit any reference to core concerns raised in complaints to the NIHR, including the use of punitive shackling, we in the international human rights community view the Institution’s statement as a clear attempt to obfuscate prison authorities’ degrading treatment of prisoners. We believe this does not represent a good faith effort to effectively address the concerns raised by international human rights groups, but rather appears to be yet another effort to whitewash human rights abuses perpetrated against Mushaima and other prisoners of conscience.

More broadly, Bahrain’s oversight bodies, including the NIHR and the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman, continually contribute to a pervasive culture of impunity in Bahrain through their failure to independently carry out their mandates. While a number of the undersigned organisations continue to present cases to these institutions, we remain seriously concerned over past instances of reprisals and intimidation, as well as false or misleading reporting that serves to conceal human rights abuses by the authorities. Through these actions, these human rights bodies have demonstrated a clear lack of independence and have failed to effectively seek accountability or to act in the best interest of victims.

A number of organisations have expressed these concerns. In July 2018 the UN Human Rights Committee found that Bahrain is failing to meet its treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, specifically noting that the NIHR “lacks sufficient independence to perform its functions” and voicing concerns about “the lack of information on complaints received and investigations carried out in response to these complaints.” Additionally, the UN Committee against Torture in its 2017 State Review of Bahrain, as well as the European Parliament in an urgency resolution earlier this summer, expressed further alarm over the partiality and inefficacy of the NIHR.

The Bahraini human rights mechanisms have largely failed to properly address concerns raised on behalf of Hassan Mushaima, and his life remains at risk. Because of this, his son, Ali Mushaima, is on his 20th day of a hunger strike outside of Bahrain’s Embassy in London. In the early hours of 12 August, foamy dirty liquid was thrown on Ali Mushaima from the embassy’s balcony, in what appears to be an attempt to intimidate him and force him to leave the premises. Undeterred, he continues his protest demanding Bahraini authorities immediately provide Hassan Mushaima with unfettered access to medication and treatment, as well as for an end to restrictions on family visits and the return of confiscated books and reading materials.

We in the international human rights community call on the Bahraini government to establish truly independent and credible human rights mechanisms that are fully empowered to carry out their mandates and appropriately address human rights violations and abuses. We also call on the Bahraini authorities to lift illegal restrictions on prisoners, provide Mushaima and other prisoners of conscience with adequate medical care, and ultimately ensure his release.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Amnesty International


Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

Global Rights Watch

Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

Index on Censorship

PEN International

Rafto Foundation for Human Rights[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1534691207631-dfa3422d-2ad0-9″ taxonomies=”716″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Protesters call for the release of Bahrain human rights defender seven years after his arrest

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Ciaran Willis, Lauren Brown and Samantha Chambers

Zainab and Maryam al-Khawaja

Zainab and Maryam al-Khawaja

The daughters of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the co-founder of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, participated in a demonstration on Monday 9 April outside the Bahrain Embassy in London calling for his release on the seventh anniversary of his arrest.

Maryam and Zainab al-Khawaja joined NGOs and fellow supporters, as they chanted “free free Abdulhadi” and held placards with a picture of the Bahraini human rights activist.

It marked seven years since Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, founder of the 2012 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award-winning Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was imprisoned for his involvement in peaceful pro-democracy protests that swept the country during the Arab Spring. On 9 April 2011 twenty masked men broke into his house, dragged him down the stairs and arrested him in front of his family.

Bahrain has a poor track record on human rights, with many reports of torture and human rights defenders in jail. Al- Khawaja was part of the Bahrain 13, a group of journalists and activists who faced unfair trials following the unrest.

During his time in prison, Al-Khawaja has been tortured, sexually abused and admitted to hospital requiring surgery on a broken jaw.

His daughter Maryam al-Khawaja was imprisoned in Bahrain for a year before leaving the country in 2014. She faces prosecution on charges including insulting the king and defamation. She told Index: “For me, this isn’t just about my dad, it’s a reminder that we have thousands of prisoners in Bahrain, and we need to remember all of them, and we need to be fighting on behalf of all of them. These are all prisoners of conscience.”

A number of prominent Bahraini campaigners took part in the demonstration.

Jawad Fairooz, a former Bahrain MP and president of SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, said: “We’re here to support Abdulhadi as a symbol of the demand of the people of Bahrain who want to live in the country with dignity and freedom.”

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and an activist who fled the country following torture, said: “I’m proud to belong to a nation that Abdulhadi is a part of. Abdulhadi to me is one of the most inspirational individuals.”

Cat Lucas, programme manager at English Pen’s Writers at Risk initiative, said that the government could be doing a lot more to challenge what is going on in Bahrain. She hopes the Bahraini Embassy will finally act, not just in the case of al-Khawaja, “but in the case of lots of writers and activists who are imprisoned for their peaceful human rights activities”.

Protesters have gathered outside the Embassy once a month since January 2018 to highlight the dire human rights situation and ask the UK government to take action.

Al- Khawaja’s daughter Zainab called on the UK to hold the Bahraini regime accountable: “Major governments are still supporting the Bahraini regime with weapons and political training. They’re the people behind them. I can feel as angry here as I would protesting in Bahrain, because I know what the government here is responsible for. I know one of the reasons people are being killed and tortured in Bahrain, including my father, is the support from the British and American governments.”

A group of NGOs, including Index on Censorship and Pen International, signed a letter last week calling on Bahrain to cease its abuse of fundamental human rights.They asked the authorities to immediately and unconditionally free Abdulhadi, provide proper access to medical care and allow international NGOs and journalists access to Bahrain.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1523361455279-ef10ef07-647f-1″ taxonomies=”716″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Bahrain 13: One year since Index magazine sent to jailed academic and blogger


Protesters in London demand the release of Abduljalil al-Singace, July 2015.

One year has passed since Index on Censorship magazine editor Rachael Jolley sent a copy of the publication – Fired, Threatened, Imprisoned… Is Academic Freedom Being Eroded? – to jailed Bahraini academic, human rights activist and writer Abduljalil al-Singace to mark his 150 days on hunger strike.

Al-Singace’s hunger strike ended on 27 January 2016 after 313 days, but he remains in prison.

In a letter accompanying the magazine, Jolley aired concerns that al-Singace – who had been protesting prison conditions while being held in solitary confinement – had suffered torture and called on the Bahraini authorities to ensure he “had access to the medical treatment he urgently requires”.


Index magazine editor Rachael Jolley pens letter to Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior regarding al-Singace, 17 August 2015.

On 15 March 2011 Bahrain’s king brought in a three-month state of emergency, which included the through establishing of military courts known as National Safety Courts. The aim of the decree was to quell a series of demonstrations that began following a deadly night raid on 17 February 2011 against protesters at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, when four people were killed and around 300 injured.

Over 300 individuals were subsequently convicted through National Safety Courts, often for speaking out against the government or exercising their right to assemble freely. Many were punished simply for supporting or being part of the country’s opposition movement.

On a midnight raid at his home on 17 March 2011, al-Singace was arrested at gunpoint. During the arrest, he was beaten, verbally abused and his family threatened with rape. Disabled since his youth, al-Singace was forced to stand without his crutches for long periods of time during his arrest. Masked men also kicked him until he collapsed. The Bahraini authorities placed him in solitary confinement for two months. During this time the guards starved him, beat him and sexually abused him.

Al-Singace is part of what is known as the Bahrain 13, a group of peaceful activists and human rights defenders imprisoned in Bahrain in connection with their role in the February 2011 protests.

On 22 June 2011 a military court sentenced all members of the Bahrain 13 to between five years and life in prison, on trumped-up charges of attempting to overthrow the regime, “broadcasting false news and rumours” and “inciting demonstrations”.

Evidence used against them was extracted under torture, but this didn’t prevent their sentences being upheld on appeal in September 2011, at a civilian court in May 2012 and in January 2013 at the Court of Cassation. The Bahrain 13 has now exhausted all domestic remedies and are currently serving their sentences Jau prison, notorious for torture and ill treatment.

During their arrest and detention, the Bahrain 13 were subject to beatings, torture, sexual abuse and threats of violence and rape towards themselves and members of their family by police and prison authorities. Eleven of the 13 remain in prison.

The group consists of:


Sheikh Abduljalil al-Muqdad, a religious cleric and a co-founder of the al-Wafaa Political Society. During his detention he has been beaten, tortured and told his wife would be raped.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a human rights activist and co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. On 8 February 2012, he began a hunger strike to protest his wrongful detention and treatment in prison. He ended his hunger strike after 110 days on 30 May 2012. He went on hunger strike again in April 2015 to protest against the torture of prisoners at Jau.

Salah al-Khawaja, a prominent human rights activist, marriage consultant and the brother of Abdulhadi. The government previously arrested Salah in the 1980’s and 1990’s for engaging in political activity against the government. He was released on 19 March 2016.

Abdulhadi al-Makhdour, a religious cleric and political activist. Authorities prevented him from showering and performing his daily prayers. They spat in his mouth and forced him to swallow. They also denied him access to a lawyer and barred him from contacting his family.

Mohammed Habib al-Muqdad, a religious cleric and the president of the al-Zahraa Society for Orphans. During his time in prison he was sexually assaulted with sticks and forced to gargle his own urine. Security guards also electrocuted him on his body and genitals.

Mohammed Ali Ismael, a prominent political activist in Bahrain. During his imprisonment, he has been beaten and verbally abused.

Abdulwahab Hussain, a life-long political activist and leader of the Al Wafaa political opposition society. He was previously detained for six months in 1995 and for five years between 1996 and 2001. He was diagnosed with multiple peripheral polyradiculoneuropathy, a condition which affects the body’s nerves, in 2005 and suffers from sickle-cell disease and chronic anaemia. His health conditions have worsened as a direct result of the torture and ill-treatment, while medicine and treatment have been denied to him. During his current sentence he has contracted numerous infections.

Mohammed Hassan Jawad, human rights activist who campaigns for the rights of detainees and prisoners who has been jailed a number of times since the 1980s. During his current imprisonment, he was electrocuted and beaten with a hose.

Sheikh Mirza al-Mahroos, a religious cleric, a social worker, and the vice-president of the al-Zahraa Society for Orphans. During his time in prison, Al-Mahroos has been denied medical treatment for severe pain in his legs and stomach. Despite having the proper documentation, he was not permitted to visit his sick wife, who later died in early 2014.

Hassan Mushaima, a political activist and leader of the Al Haq opposition society in Bahrain who has been arrested several times for his pro-democratic activities. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010, which he was successfully treating at the time of his arrest. Medical results have been denied to him in prison.

Sheikh Saeed al-Noori, a religious cleric and member of the al-Wafaa Political Society. During his detention he has been tortured, forced to stand for long periods of time and had shoes stuffed in his mouth.

Ebrahim Sharif, the former president of the National Democratic Action Society. He is a political activist and has campaigned for democratic reform and equal rights. On 19 June 2015, Sharif was released following a royal pardon, only to be rearrested on 12 July 2015. He was charged with “inciting hatred against the regime” for a speech he delivered in commemoration of 16-year-old Hussam al-Haddad, who was shot and killed by police forces in 2012. He was released again in July 2016 and remains out of prison but the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy he is at risk of being arrested again because of an appeal by prosecutors.

Source: The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

Also read:
Bahrain continues to use arbitrary detention as a weapon to silence critics
Bahrain: critics and dissidents still face twin threat of statelessness and deportation

Index condemns arrest of Nabeel Rajab

Index on Censorship condemns the arrest on Monday 13 June of human rights campaigner Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain. According to reports Rajab was charged on Tuesday 14 June with “publishing and broadcasting false news that undermines the prestige of the state” and detained for seven days.

Rajab, a former Freedom of Expression Award winner and a judge on this year’s awards, is one of the Gulf region’s most well-known human rights activists. Since the Bahraini uprising of 2011, he has been arrested on numerous occasions: he spent two years in jail between 2012 and 2014, and was arrested just months after his 2014 release for tweets in which he called Bahraini institutions “ideological incubators” for ISIS.

Rajab, president of the award-winning Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and a member of the advisory committee of the Human Rights Watch Middle East division, spent three months in jail for the tweets. He was rearrested on Monday, according to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. The reasons for the arrest were unclear.

“The harassment of Nabeel Rajab must stop. We call on the international community – and especially Bahrain’s close ally, the United Kingdom – to condemn this ongoing attempt to silence one of the region’s most highly respected human rights campaigners,” said Index chief executive Jodie Ginsberg.

Bahraini authorities have repeatedly targeted Rajab as well as other human rights campaigners and political activists. Last week, Zainab Al-Khawaja was forced into exile in Denmark. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, her father, is serving a life sentence for his calls for democracy in Bahraini society. Her sister, Maryam Al-Khawaja, has also been harassed by the authorities and has been exiled to Denmark.

Related: Bahrain continues to use arbitrary detention as a weapon to silence critics