By: Julien Jaber (Researcher)
To commemorate Nelson Mandela International Day, the 18th of July, Salam DHR has launched “Bahrain: The Treatment of Prisoners During the COVID-19 Pandemic” report in Arabic. This report highlights abuses and ill-treatment from Bahraini authorities against prisoners in Jau Central Prison during the pandemic. In addition, the report highlights how these practices violated Bahrain’s international promises, specifically the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules.
After the Bahraini Ministry of Interior refused to publish the names of prisoners who contracted COVID-19, this report provides all known identities of those who were infected with the two waves of the virus in 2021. Moreover, the report documents key dates of the outbreak in Jau Central Prison, and how prison authorities exploited so-called preventive measures to further restrict the privileges of prisoners, especially prisoners of conscience. Several violations were detected:
- Making distinctions between political prisoners and other prisoners
- Severe overcrowding: the size of the cells does not meet the minimum international standards for floor space per prisoner
- Weak hygiene standards inside the prison, along with a failure to provide masks and sanitisers to prisoners
- Providing poor-quality food and delaying meals to prisoners in some stances
- Medical negligence that led to the death of two prisoners in 2021, along with failure to provide treatment to COVID-19 patients and preventing prisoners from seeing a physician
- Banning family visits as a preventive measure, and sometimes preventing prisoners from contacting their families as part of a series of policy restrictions placed upon them.
The report concludes by presenting recommendations to the Government of Bahrain, most notably that it should provide training for prison staff and guards on how to deal with prisoners during epidemics, along with the necessity of developing an action plan to address ongoing issues with prison overcrowding.