BFHR, Salam DHR: 39 Confirmed Positive Coronavirus Cases in Jaw Prison, Gov't should Take Rapid Measures and Release Prisoners
2021-03-29 - 5:20 p
Bahrain Mirror: Bahrain Forum for Human Rights and Salam for Democracy and Human Rights documented the names of 39 inmates who tested positive for Coronavirus.
According to the two organizations, the first prisoner of conscience COVID-19 case has been confirmed on March 23 in Jaw Central Prison. At the time of writing, the confirmed positive COVID-19 cases of prisoners of conscience have reached 39. The Bahrain Forum and Salam have warned that the spread of the virus in the prisons will expose the detainees and employees to imminent danger.
It is important to note that three of the cases also suffer from chronic illness: Fadhel Mohammad Riha Baddah, Ahmed Muhammed Saleh, and Mohammad Al-Singace.
Furthermore, prisoners of conscience are generally detained in overcrowded cells and wards. It has been confirmed that four of the aforementioned infected cases are held in a cell prison that contains more than 150 prisoners of conscience, ward 2, building 21 in Jaw Central Prison.
The two organizations have raised concerns over the slower and fewer releases of prisoners of conscience in light of the pandemic; as only 677 prisoners of conscience have been released since March 2020, many of whom had already ended their sentences prior to their release.
The organizations also indicated that "denial of medical care" has been the most severe form of torture and ill-treatment detected in prisons in recent years. From January 2018 to March 15, 2021, there were 776 cases of violations of right to receive appropriate and necessary medical treatment.
In previous cases, the deterioration of prison conditions made prisoners raise numerous complaints which led to many protests demanding the prison administration to meet the minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners. The most prominent of these protests took place in Dry Dock Prison (2013) and in Jaw Prison (2015).
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed in a statement, on March 25, 2020, her grave concern over prisons overcrowding in a number of countries worldwide, where many of the prisoners and held in unclean and unhealthy conditions, which may be a cause of the wide spread of the Coronavirus. The High Commissioner called for the release of the largest possible number of prisoners as a decisive measure to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Bachelet also spoke about the situation of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, she said: "Governments should release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views. When people are released, they should be medically screened and measures taken to ensure that if needed they receive care and proper follow-up, including health monitoring."
"Under international human rights law, States have an obligation to take steps to prevent foreseeable threats to public health and have a duty to ensure that all who need vital medical care can receive it," she added.
67 Arab and international human rights organization have already warned the government of Bahrain about the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic reaching the prisons, among the signatories were Bahrain Forum for Human Rights and Salam for Democracy and Human Rights. "Today, we reiterate the recommendations about the risk of causalities in prisons," both of the organizations stressed.
They reiterated that the government of Bahrain's legal and human rights obligations are to guarantee and ensure the health and well-being of its citizens and residents, including prisoners, and to protect all of them from infectious and deadly diseases. The detention of huge numbers of individuals is considered a huge obstacle to healthcare in light of the spread of a serious threat such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors and specialists say that preventive measures should include social and physical distancing, however, this is not achieved in prisons. Thus, the Bahraini government should take rapid measures and release all prisoners.