Hassan Mushaima – a leading Bahraini opposition figure, secretary-general of the Haq Movement, and co-founder of the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society – is being prevented from accessing healthcare in line with international law by Bahraini authorities. Mushaima, 70 years old, was sentenced to life in prison for his pro-democracy activism in 2011.

The opposition leader’s suffers from a variety of health problems including diabetes, and officials at Bahrain’s Jau Prison have denied him consistent access to his prescribed medications, which are now running out. Having previously been afflicted by cancer, Mushaima also needs to attend bi-yearly screenings to make sure that his cancer remains in remission. Access to these screenings has also been restricted by prison authorities, prompting the UN Special Rapporteur on health to express concern to the Bahraini government in regards to the case. Mushaima has also not been allowed to receive visits from his family since February 2017.

Hassan’s son, Ali Mushaima, who is living in exile in the UK, recently started an open-ended hunger strike outside the Bahraini embassy in London to protest the government’s denial of his father’s medication.

Officials from the Government of Bahrain have denied that Mushaima is being denied access to his medicine, asserting instead that he has been refusing to take the medication that prison authorities provide to him. However, they state that Bahrain’s accountability mechanisms – namely the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman and the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) – are handling the situation, despite the persistent failure of both organizations to address repeated requests for assistance submitted by the Mushaima family and international human rights groups. The NIHR dismissed that Mushaima even has health problems earlier this year, and UN rights experts have noted that these institutions are ineffective and lack independence.

Prisoners have the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Refusing access to healthcare or withholding medication from a prisoner is forbidden by the United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Defenders for Medical Impartiality condemns the way in which Hassan Mushaima is being treated, and urges the relevant authorities in Bahrain to rectify the situation immediately.