21 NGOs Demand Release of Imprisoned Activists in Bahrain
2020-04-07 - 6:46 am
Bahrain Mirror: Amid the global threat posed by COVID-19, Bahraini authorities should release human rights defenders, opposition activists, journalists and all others imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, a coalition of 21 rights groups said.
On March 17, 2020, Bahrain completed the release of 1,486 prisoners, 901 of whom received royal pardons on "humanitarian grounds." The remaining 585 were given non-custodial sentences. While this is a positive step, the releases so far have excluded opposition leaders, activists, journalists and human rights defenders - many of whom are older and/or suffer from underlying medical conditions. Such prisoners are at high risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19, and thus ought to be prioritized for release.
"Bahrain's significant release of prisoners is certainly a welcome relief as concerns around the spread of COVID-19 continue to rise. Authorities must now speedily release those who never should have been in jail in the first place, namely all prisoners of conscience who remain detained solely for exercising their right to peaceful expression", said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East director of research."
Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary-General of the dissolved Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society (Al-Wefaq), remain imprisoned. Sayed Nizar Al-Wadaei, who was deemed arbitrarily detained by the United Nations in "reprisal" for the activism of his brother-in-law, the exiled activist Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei, and human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Naji Fateel, have not been released either.
Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has documented that a total of 394 detainees of the 1,486 released were imprisoned on political charges. Conditions in Bahrain's overcrowded prisons compound the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
The lack of adequate sanitation led to a scabies outbreak in Jaw Prison - Bahrain's largest prison - and Dry Dock Detention Center in December 2019 and January 2020. Almost half of the Dry Dock Detention Center's prison population was infected. In 2016 a governmental Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission found buildings at Jaw Prison to suffer from "bad hygiene," "insect infestation" and "broken toilets." Furthermore, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations have expressed their concern over the authorities' persistent failure to provide adequate medical care in Bahrain's prisons.
This has endangered the health of some unjustly imprisoned persons with chronic medical conditions, such as Hassan Mushaima and Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, who may now be at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19.