In light of the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world, three Bahraini human rights organisations, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR), the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR) and the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights (BFHR), have called on the Bahraini authorities to take further measures to protect the health of detainees in Bahrain, in line with the Nelson Mandela Rules for the treatment of prisoners. These measures include releasing prisoners of conscience, a step that has been done by many countries in order to grant the prisoners’ basic rights, overturn arbitrary judicial rulings against them, and provide them with reparations.
The three human rights organisations expressed their concern about the fate of detainees in Bahraini prisons should the Coronavirus pandemic spread there, noting that the Bahraini authorities have a long record of depriving urgent medical care to detainees as a means of ill-treatment. If prisoners are affected by this deadly pandemic, the health care in prisons threatens to become even worse.
The organisations stressed that the Bahraini government should take exceptional measures to prevent the infection of prisoners with this deadly virus, noting that the prison administration of the Bahraini Ministry of Interior must isolate each new inmate for at least 14 days before entering Jaw Prison and Dry Dock Prison in order to ensure they are safe and to prevent the transmission of the virus to the prisoner population. Furthermore, the arrest of citizens for political reasons must be stopped.
The organisations continued that the Bahraini government should also provide full access to health care for prisoners without exception, sterilization equipment, cleaning, and medical examination of prison officials and employees. Such measures, which are stipulated by the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and other international treaties, must be carried out under oversight from the judiciary and independent local and international bodies.
The organisations added that the prison administration must not lose sight of sick detainees, who must be released immediately and receive medical treatment, as stipulated by Articles 19 to 26 of the Nelson Mandela Rules.
The three organisations urge the government of Bahrain to respond to domestic and international demands for the release of all prisoners, as an urgent measure to protect the health of prisoners before the crisis escalates further.