Human Rights Watch and the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) have censured Bahraini officials for failing to provide adequate medical care to jailed political activists, as the ruling Al Khalifah regime presses ahead with its clampdown on human rights activists and pro-democracy campaigners in the kingdom.
Two detained human rights defenders, as well as the family members of four jailed opposition activists, told HRW and BIRD that prison authorities are arbitrarily denying the inmates urgent medical care, refusing to refer them to specialists, failing to disclose their medical examination results, and withholding medication as a form of punishment.
The family of 57-year-old Abduljalil al-Singace, an academic who was a spokesman for the dissolved Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy, said his health has deteriorated significantly in detention.
Singace’s daughter said that he saw the prison doctor on August 28, for the first time since 2017.
Earlier requests for medical attention for neck and back pain that his family said resulted from torture had been denied.
Moreover, prison officials did not authorize white blood cell checkups he needs as a result of complications he suffered due to a prolonged hunger strike in 2015.
On August 28, the prison doctor recommended that Singace should see a heart specialist in Bahrain Defense Forces (BDF) Hospital. Prison authorities told him on the day of the appointment that they would not take him there as he had refused to put on the prison uniform or wear shackles.
Meanwhile, the son of Hassan Mushaima, the head of al-Haq, who was sentenced to life in prison on June 22, 2011 for his peaceful political activities, said that the last screening for his father recovering from lymphoma occurred in August 2018, following his 46-day hunger strike in London.
The imprisoned Bahraini activist did not receive the results until April 2019. Prison authorities promised to conduct another screening in August, but have not done it yet, Mushaima’s family said.
Mushaima, 71, requires screening tests every six months.
His son said that authorities routinely denied his father specialized medical care for his chronic illnesses, namely diabetes, high blood pressure and gout.
Prison authorities insist on shackling Mushaima during transfers to hospital appointments, but he has refused to do so, considering it humiliating and unnecessary, his son said.
“It is outrageous that Bahraini authorities are denying detainees medical care that they urgently need, in some cases putting their lives in danger,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said.
He added, “Many of these people should not have been imprisoned in the first place, and arbitrary denial of medical care may amount to extrajudicial punishment.”
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.
They are demanding that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established. Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.
On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.
Bahraini monarch King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3, 2017.