2021 Panorama: Deaths of Barakat and Malullah, Coronavirus Outbreak, Hunger Strikes, Attacks and Medical Negligence in Bahraini Prisons

Martyr Abbas Malullah's son standing at his grave
Martyr Abbas Malullah's son standing at his grave

2023-10-06 - 12:33 p

Bahrain Mirror (2021 Panorama): The plight of detainees in Bahrain's prisons was far from an improvement over preceding years. A disturbing narrative unfolded in 2021, revealing deliberate medical negligence, a severe Coronavirus outbreak, hunger strikes, physical attacks, and a lack of humane treatment within the confines of the Dry Dock and Jaw Central prisons.

The year witnessed persistent complaints of intentional medical negligence and the denial of medical treatment within the Dry Dock and Jaw Central prisons. The consequences of the Coronavirus outbreak and deliberate disregard for detainees' health resulted in the tragic deaths of Abbas Malullah and Hussein Barakat.

The scope of violations extended beyond political prisoners, encompassing figures and even children who embarked on hunger strikes to protest the outbreak of skin diseases among them. However, the prison administration responded with ignorance, oppression, and increased restrictions, exacerbating an already dire situation.


Leaders like Hasan Mushaima, the Haq Movement leader, was subjected to prolonged medical negligence, with a history dating back a decade of his suffering from being denied, by the authorities, his right to cancer treatment and tests. Mushaima had been receiving treatment for his disease in the UK back in 2010.

The year brought forth alarming incidents, including Mushaima's deteriorating health, the medical neglect of Sheikh Abduljalil Al-Moqdad, and the open hunger strike initiated by Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace.

On May 27, Mushaima suffered from abnormal swelling in his feet and inability to walk. On July 25, his family said that his body started to collapse due to medical negligence; however, Mushaima later refused (September 14) to be freed from prison under conditional release or under the alternative penal code.

On April 21, the authorities temporarily released Sheikh Abduljalil Al-Moqdad to attend his mother's funeral procession. On June 11, Al-Moqdad told his family that he has been medically neglected for a long time and that he preferred not to talk about the issue, which he said reached the level of torture.

On July 10, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace announced starting an open hunger strike after his ill-treatment and the confiscation of his research by prison officer, Mohammad Yousif Fakhro. On July 27, Al-Signace's health deteriorated, and he was transferred to the hospital, but his lawyer, Mohammad Al-Tajer, stressed that Al-Singace will continue his open hunger strike despite his health deterioration.

On July 3, Sheikh Mirza Al-Mahrous initiated a hunger strike over being prevented from seeing his son who is detained for political reasons. On October 5, human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja submitted a request through his lawyer to benefit from the alternative penal code. The prison administration; however, hasn't met his demand yet. Al-Khawaja went on a hunger strike for 2 days over being banned from calling his family before the prison administration went back on their decision.

On April 9, the authorities released the eldest political prisoner in Bahrain, Mohammad Jawad Pervez, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in the "Figures Case", under the alternative penal code.

Deaths of Malullah, Barakat and Qambar

The most tragic incidents unfolded with the deaths of Abbas Malullah, Hussein Barakat, and Ali Qambar. Malullah's pleas for medical attention were met with indifference, while Barakat succumbed to the Coronavirus after being returned to his cell despite critical health conditions. Qambar's struggle against medical neglect ended with his release, too late to save him from the spread of cancer.

On April 6, Abbas Malullah, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison (had served 10 years), complained of severe heart and abdominal pains and asked to be taken to the hospital. His request was rejected. He entered the washroom at about 12:00 a.m., suffered a seizure and fell to the ground. When the prisoners tried to open the door and then informed the police directly, the policeman coolly told them: I have no orders at the moment, I'm waiting for orders!

In early June, prisoner Hussein Barakat, 48, contracted the Coronavirus and was examined by the prison's physician. Prisoners heard him tell the police that he has the Coronavirus and that his oxygen levels are very low. However, the police returned him to his prison cell. This lasted for 5 days until his health deteriorated, and he was only transferred to the hospital when the prison administration was certain he was dying. He passed away on June 9 due to deliberate medical negligence.

In 2017, prisoner Ali Qambar was diagnosed with cancer. He continued to suffer from medical negligence and his release was rejected until the tumor spread to his lungs. After that, the authorities decided to release him in July 2018 while he was in the final stage of the disease.

Qambar left Bahrain to receive treatment and returned later to the country. However, he was banned from leaving the country again to resume his treatment, according to the Haq Movement. He died on October 25 and hundreds of citizens took part in his funeral procession.

Coronavirus Outbreak and Medical Negligence

The Coronavirus outbreak in the prisons raised alarms, with prisoners refusing to enter overcrowded cells. Despite this, the prison administration resorted to force, escalating tensions. The authorities' response to the pandemic, including imposing fines on protesting families, drew criticism. The selective application of royal decrees, excluding political prisoners from pardons, further fueled discontent.

On February 9, the interior ministry announced that an inmate in Jaw Prison contracted Coronavirus and claimed that it isolated the prisoners who were in contact with him. On February 16, human rights activist Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei announced that at least 3 political prisoners tested positive for Coronavirus.

On the following day, the interior ministry claimed that it vaccinated all prisoners who wished to receive the Coronavirus vaccine.

With the Coronavirus outbreak, prisoners refused to enter their crowded cells; however, the prison administration attacked them (March 17) and forced them to enter their cells.

On March 24, the interior ministry announced that 3 prisoners had contracted the Coronavirus. Human rights activists started to announce names of the infected prisoners the following day. The list exceeded 50 (March 29), including Sheikh Hasan Isa and Abd Ali Al-Singace.

The interior ministry said in a statement on March 25 that it dealt with the Coronavirus outbreak inside Jaw Prison without adding any details. As a result, prisoners' families protested on March 30 in different areas across Bahrain, demanding the release of their sons to save their lives.

On April 6, the health of detained youth, Mohammad Abdulhassan, who suffered from the Coronavirus, deteriorated. After his cell mates went on a hunger strike, the prison administration agreed to transfer him to Al-Salmaniya Medical Complex. He was directly admitted to the ICU due to facing difficulty in breathing.

Families of detainees continued their peaceful assembly and protest to demand the release of their sons. The authorities responded to these moves by imposing fines on them reaching BD 1,000 against each person, over charges of "violating an assembly ban decision".

The public prosecution released (9-12 April) around 60 political prisoners, including activist Mohammad Jawad Pervez and Sayed Kamel Al-Hashemi, under the alternative penal code in an attempt to ease the pressure exerted on them in dealing with Coronavirus inside the prison. Nonetheless, the royal decrees pardoning prisoners, which are usually issued during the Eid Al-Fitr and Al-Adha holidays and other national holidays, were limited to criminal prisoners and excluded political prisoners.

The suffering of prisoners of buildings 12 and 13 continued due to the Coronavirus outbreak after the prison administration made a decision on the onset of April to isolate them and prevent them from making calls under the pretext of "preventive measures". Their suffering lasted for at least two weeks. Prisoners protested against this action and ended up being subjected to a bloody attack by a security battalion (April 17) that injured at least 33 of them, according to human rights organizations. During the attack, led by lieutenants Ahmed Al-Ammadi and Mohammad Abdulhamid Maarouf, security forces used batons and stun grenades. Prisoners suffered injuries and bleeding on different parts of their bodies. 

Following this incident, families of prisoners, who had not known anything about their loved ones for weeks, sat in front of the Jaw Prison building, but security forces were disrespectful towards them and threatened to take action against them if they did not leave.

Families then protested in front of the Ombudsman building on April 22. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement condemning the attack on prisoners, and demanded the formation of a transparent commission of inquiry to reveal the reasons for the police violent treatment of prisoners.

April 26: The authorities release the last female political detainee, Zakiya Al-Barbouri, one day after the King received prominent Shiite cleric Sayed Abdullah Al-Ghoraifi.

August 5: The authorities release prisoner Mohammad Al-A'ali, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, after developing lung cancer.

Continued Harassment and ill-Treatment of Prisoners

August 6: Americans for Human Rights said that Sheikh Zuheir Ashour and his prison mates are being deprived of exposure to sunlight. The authorities allude to preventing them from commemorating Ashura.

August 13: Mohammad Hassan Al-Ramel, 61, suffers medical negligence and vomits blood. The Prison physician said he is indifferent to his suffering.

September 8: Health of hunger striker detainee Abd Ali Al-Singace deteriorates. Al-Singace started his hunger strike protesting against his ill-treatment and the prison's refusal to look into his complaints of being subjected to torture.

September 27: Al-Jazeera publishes shocking stories on human rights violations against detained children in Dry Dock Prison.

November 15: Jaw Prison administration refuses to transfer prisoner Ahmad Al-Ojaimi to the hospital despite his suffering from severe nose bleeding.

November 15: The Jaw Prison administration refuses to release prisoner Habib Abdulhussein within the framework of the alternative penal code and to allow him to receive treatment for his knee injury which he sustained weeks prior.

November 16: Prisoner Hasan Abdullah's life was at risk after tumors were discovered in his throat and trachea.

November 16: The family of prisoner Sayed Wadei Al-Wadeai says that the prison infirmary injected their son with a substance that paralyzed him.

November 17: About 60 imprisoned children in the Dry Dock Prison go on hunger strike after the authorities ignored their complaints about the spread of skin diseases among them due to lack of exposure to sunlight.

November 18: Prisoner Younis Al-Owainati complains of medical negligence and reveals that he suffers from severe stomach pains.

November 18: The head of Dry Dock Prison confiscates religious books and belongings of children because of their hunger strike.

November 19: The Dry Dock Prison administration punishes children on hunger strike and forces them to sleep on the ground without pillows and covers.

November 21: The Ombudsman refuses to receive the mothers of prisoners on hunger strike.

December 6: Mohammad Al-Khor, sentenced to life in prison, goes on an open hunger strike due to the deliberate humiliation he and his prison mates are being subjected to by the prison police, reducing the duration of their phone calls with their families and the degrading treatment they are subjected to.

Arabic Version