67 NGOs Urge Bahraini Authorities to Respond to High Commissioner's Call to Release Prisoners

2020-04-19 - 1:14 ص

Bahrain Mirror: 67 Arab and international human rights organizations - including 18 Tunisian organizations - called on the Bahraini authorities to respond to the call of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the immediate release of prisoners of conscience and to take urgent and humanitarian measures to confront the spread of Coronavirus.

The organizations confirmed that prisons and detention centers are the most vulnerable to infectious diseases and their conditions do not give a chance for physical distancing. Thus, it is impossible for overcrowded prisons to apply the World Health Organization recommendations and guidelines to confront this pandemic.

“67 human rights organizations signing this statement call on the Bahraini authorities to positively respond to the call of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with respect to prisoners, work for their immediate release, and take urgent measures similar to these taken by states in this humanitarian framework. The Bahraini government should put the measure of releasing prisoners in its overall plan to confront the Coronavirus, as prisons and places of detention are the most vulnerable to infectious diseases and their conditions do not give a chance for physical separation. It is impossible for overcrowded prisons to implement the WHO recommendations and guidelines to confront this pandemic,” they said in a statement.

The organization added "Bahraini prisons are overcrowded, official reports say," referring to the heavy record of the security authorities in adopting denial of treatment as one of torturing methods, which led the health care to reach the lowest levels in Bahrain, noting that this could be a disaster to prisoners if COVID-19 pandemic reached them.

On 25 March 2020, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called on governments to take urgent action as part of a comprehensive effort to contain the outbreak of the Coronavirus, with the aim to protect the health and safety of people detained in prisons and other closed facilities. The High Commissioner's call received a rapid and large humanitarian response from the countries that released thousands of prisoners and detainees as part of the plan to confront this pandemic. It also received support from human rights organizations.

The call tackled "conditions of political detainees and prisoners of conscience, and urged the governments to release every person detained on unlawful grounds, including political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. After their release, they should undergo the necessary medical examinations and procedures, to verify that they are free of any disease, provide the necessary care to those in need, and monitor their health conditions."

The organizations added: "The Bahraini government have a moral and legal responsibility to guarantee and ensure health for its citizens and residents, including prisoners, and to protect them from the most deadly infectious diseases, as stipulated by the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (called the Nelson Mandela Rules). The detention of large numbers of individuals constitutes a very significant obstacle to health care in light of the spread of a serious epidemic such as Coronavirus and the measures recommended by medical specialists of social and physical distancing, is not possible in prisons. Therefore, the government is obliged to take raoid actions, release prisoners, and abide by its obligations towards prisoners."

According to international human rights law "states are obliged to take the necessary measures to prevent any danger to public health and ensure the provision of medical care for all those who need it".

Arabic Version