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

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#IndexAwards2016: Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace has not let prison silence him

Blogger and human rights activist Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace has been in prison in Bahrain since 2010. He was arrested at Bahrain International Airport after returning from London, where he had been testifying to the House of Lords about Bahrain’s human rights practices. A security official stated that Al-Singace had “abused the freedom of opinion and expression prevailing in the kingdom”. After being held in solitary confinement for six months, Al-Singace was briefly released in February 2011 before being rearrested in March.


“I saw them drag him in his underwear and without his glasses, with a gun pointed at his head,” a relative said of the arrest. He was taken to a detention center where he was blindfolded, handcuffed and beaten. On 22 June 2011 a military court sentenced Al-Singace to life imprisonment.

Al-Singace is one of 13 leading human rights and political activists arrested in the same period, subjected to torture, and sentenced in the same case, known as the “Bahrain 13”. All 13 are all serving their prison sentences in the Central Jau Prison.

“The group is more like a family now,” said a member of Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace’s family, who asked to remain unnamed due to pressure the family continue to face from authorities. “They went through similar conditions of the arrest and torture, and they all suffered a lot because of their opinions and because of expressing their opinion.”

Last year Al-Singace went on hunger strike to protest the treatment of prisoners in Bahrain. Al-Singace, suffers from polio in his left leg and various other health issues, was held in solitary confinement in a windowless room in Al-Qalaa hospital and has denied any form of media or writing materials.

“Being alone in solitary confinement in that small room, not being allowed to watch TV or to talk to other patients or have books, it didn’t break anything in him,” said the family member. “I think it made him stronger. He was always positive during the whole period.”

Al-Singace’s hunger strike lasted for 313 days.

“He inspires everyone. Even when he was very weak during the strike, he was the one who was inspiring us. We felt stronger with his strength despite that his body was very weak and he was shivering, but he has this very, very positive strong spirit.”

And the situation in Bahrain at the moment?

“It is still difficult. There are still people being arrested, children being arrested, nationalities being revoked. It’s still very complicated and very difficult. You still see police cars and checkpoints especially in the villages or in the openings of the villages, the entrances. It’s still very difficult in Bahrain.”

Bahrain: Release prisoner of conscience Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace

NGOs from the around the world call for the immediate release of prisoner of conscience Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace on his 300th day of hunger strike. Dr. al-Singace began his hunger strike in March 2015 as a response to police subjecting inmates at the Central Jau Prison to collective punishment, humiliation and torture.

Since 21 March 2015, Dr. al-Singace has foregone food and subsisted on water and IV fluid injections for sustenance. Days later, Jau prison authorities transferred him to the Qalaa hospital, where he is still being kept in a form of solitary confinement.

Dr. al-Singace’s family, who visited him on 7 January, state that the prison administration is controlling his treatment at Qalaa hospital, and has for five months continuously, denied his need for a physical checkup by his hematologist at Salmaniya Medical Complex.

According to Dr. al-Singace’s family, he is not allowed to walk outside. He remains isolated in the Qalaa hospital, and is provided only irregular contact with his family. He is frequently denied basic hygienic items including soap, and is not allowed to interact with other patients in the hospital.

Dr. al-Singace is a member of the Bahrain 13, a group of thirteen peaceful political activists and human rights defenders, including Ebrahim Sharif and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, sentenced to prison terms for their peaceful role in Bahrain’s Arab Spring protests in 2011.

Dr. al-Singace was first arrested in August 2010 at Bahrain airport. He had just returned from a conference at the British House of Lords regarding human rights in Bahrain. Security forces detained Dr. al-Singace for six months, during which he was tortured, and released him in February 2011 during the height of protests. However, Dr. al-Singace was rearrested on 17 March 2011, after his participation in peaceful pro-democracy protests. In detention, officers blindfolded, handcuffed, and beat Dr. al-Singace in the head with their fists and batons. Officers threatened him and his family with reprisals.

On 22 June 2011, a military court sentenced Dr. al-Singace to life for attempted overthrow of the regime. Since then, he has been imprisoned in the Central Jau Prison, and has only recently received treatment for a nose injury sustained during torture. He has been denied treatment for a similar ear injury also sustained during torture since his incarceration.

In 2015, Dr. al-Singace was awarded the Liu Xiaobo Courage to Write Award by the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, and was named one of Index on Censorship’s 100 “free expression heroes” in 2016. He has long campaigned for an end to torture and political reform, writing on these and other subjects on his blog, Al-Faseela, which remains banned by Bahraini Internet Service Providers. Bahrain has become a dangerous place for those who speak out, with peaceful dissidents at risk of arbitrary arrests, systematic torture and unfair trial.

We, the undersigned NGOs, call on the government of Bahrain to immediately secure the release of Dr. al-Singace and all prisoners of conscience, and to provide all appropriate and necessary medical treatment for Dr. al-Singace.


Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Croatian PEN
Danish PEN
English PEN
European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Ghanaian PEN
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Icelandic PEN
Index on Censorship
Italian PEN
Norwegian PEN
PEN America
PEN Bangladesh
PEN Bolivia
PEN Canada
PEN Català
PEN Center Argentina
PEN Center USA
PEN Centre of German Speaking Writers Abroad
PEN Eritrea in Exile
PEN Flander
PEN Germany
PEN International
PEN Netherlands
PEN New Zealand
PEN Québéc
PEN Romania
PEN South Africa
PEN Suisse Romand
Peruvian PEN
Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF)
San Miguel PEN
Scholars at Risk
Scottish PEN
Serbian PEN
Trieste PEN
Wales PEN Cymru
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Zambian PEN

Bahrain: Magazine sent to jailed academic and blogger


Today marks the 150th day of prominent Bahraini academic and blogger Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace’s hunger strike.

Al-Singace is protesting prison conditions in Bahrain. He is currently being held in solitary confinement at Al Qalaa hospital due to his poor health, and is reportedly being denied access to the full medical assistance he requires. Al-Singace, who has been promoting human rights in Bahrain since 2000, is serving a life sentence for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.

Index’s magazine editor, Rachael Jolley, responded to a call by English Pen to send a magazine for Abduljalil Al-Singace along with a copy of the letter below via the Ministry of Information.


You too can express your support for Al-Singace by signing the petition asking for the immediate and unconditional release of Al-Singace and of all those detained in Bahrain in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

You can also join the social media campaign for Al-Singace by sharing details of his case with your friends and contacts using #SingaceHungerStrike.

Letter to the Ministry of Interior

Ministry of Interior
Capital Governorate Police Directorate
P.O Box 13

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to you on behalf of Index on Censorship and as a supporter of English PEN regarding the ongoing detention of Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace.

According to PEN’s information, Dr Al-Singace, a prominent academic and blogger, is currently serving a life sentence in Bahrain. I share PEN’s concerns that Al-Singace has allegedly been subject to torture and ill-treatment whilst detained, and that he has now been on hunger strike for 150 days. I also join PEN in calling on the authorities to ensure that Dr Al-Singace has access to the medical attention he urgently requires.

Whilst remaining extremely concerned for Dr Al-Singace’s health and well-being, I welcome the news that he will once again be allowed access to magazines and newspapers.

Please find enclosed a copy of Index on Censorship magazine “Fired, threatened, imprisoned… Is academic freedom being eroded?”, which I would be most grateful if you are able to pass on to Dr. Al-Singace on our behalf.

Yours sincerely

Rachael Jolley,
Editor, Index on Censorship magazine