Since an escape from Bahrain’s Jau Prison in January 2017, prison officials have intensified repressive control measures at the facility. Authorities arbitrarily cancel hospital appointments and often prevent detainees from accessing medical care unless they wear a uniform with shackles and consent to an invasive strip search. Such policies have interfered with access to treatment for at least three prisoners of conscience.
Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace
Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, a 56-year-old human rights defender, suffers from post-polio syndrome, heart problems, and enlarged prostate. He is confined to a wheelchair or crutches, but is regularly denied access to medical care, including equipment for his crutches. In 2011, al-Singace was arrested and sentenced to life in prison for his activism during the Bahraini pro-democracy movement. His health deteriorated in detention due to the ill-treatment and torture he was subjected to. In September 2014, he was hospitalized for a damaged eardrum caused by torture. He was hospitalized again in April 2015 after starting a hunger strike to protest prison conditions and ill-treatment. On 12 March 2017, prison authorities did not allow al-Singace to attend his hospital appointment after he refused to wear handcuffs and a prison uniform.
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was arrested on 9 April 2011 for his peaceful activism and sentenced to life in prison. He was tortured while in detention, resulting in a broken jaw. On March 2017, Bahraini authorities cancelled Abdulhadi’s appointment with an ophthalmologist. According to Front Line Defenders, the human rights defender has been experiencing temporary loss of vision in his right eye, as well as headaches on the right side of his head and behind his right ear. Despite his need for emergency treatment, the authorities have denied al-Khawaja’s requests to attend his appointments without being subjected to shackles and an extensive strip search.
Hassan Mushaima, 70, is also serving a life sentence for peaceful activism. Mushaima is in remission from cancer, which requires routine monitoring including tests every six months. However, the authorities have prevented him from regularly undergoing these procedures, and it has reportedly been over a year since his last test. The new restrictions at Jau have additionally prevented Mushaima from receiving adequate medical care for his other ailments, such as a deviated septum.
The arbitrary intensification of restrictions on mobility and health care at Jau Prison violates the principle of medical neutrality. The Government of Bahrain must ensure timely access to treatment for all detainees. Authorities should also investigate allegations of torture and mistreatment and hold those responsible accountable.