Bahrain: Cruel denial of medical treatment endangers lives of jailed activists
The Bahraini authorities have for over a year deliberately denied proper medical care for four elderly jailed activists, Hassan Mshaima, Abdel-Jalil al-Singace, Abdel-Wahab Hussain and Abdel-Jalil al-Miqdad, subjecting them to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and putting their lives at risk, Amnesty International said today.
All four prisoners of conscience are suffering from chronic illnesses and are denied treatment because they refuse to give into the authorities’ demands that they wear shackles to be taken to receive care and vital medication.
“That anyone can bring themselves to treat people with such cruelty is unbelievable. These men are elderly, frail and suffering the severe debilitations that come with serious chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International.
“Hassan Mshaima, Abdel-Jalil al-Singace, Abdel-Wahab Hussain and Abdel-Jalil al-Miqdad have been imprisoned solely for taking part in peaceful protests. They should not have been arrested, tried or imprisoned in the first place, let alone continue being subjected to this ill-treatment that is now endangering their lives. They must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
The activists have refused to submit to shackles, saying they are prisoners of conscience, not criminals. The authorities have seized on this to deny them access to the prison doctor, external doctors, and even visits from their families.
Before February 2017, Hassan Mshaima would receive visits from relatives and prison transfers to doctors’ appointments unshackled and wearing civilian clothes. Amnesty International has confirmed that this was the case for the other three political prisoners as well.
On 1 August 2018, Ali Mshaima, Hassan Mshaima’s son, began a hunger strike in front of Bahrain’s Embassy in London to protest the ill-treatment of his father by the Bahraini prison authorities.
“The Bahraini authorities’ treatment of these wrongfully imprisoned peaceful activists violates international law and standards on prisoner treatment and constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. The authorities are duty bound to ensure that they are treated humanely and in particular in accordance with the minimum standards laid out in the Nelson Mandela Rules, including access to adequate medical care and contact with their relatives,” said Lynn Maalouf.
“Given the frailty and age of these prisoners, there is no risk of escape or a threat to other prisoners’ or staff safety. This means that shackling these prisoners is purely a punitive measure by the authorities.”
Hassan Mshaima needs about 10 different medications for erratic blood pressure, diabetes, urinary-tract irritation and gout. He is now completely out of his regular diabetes pills, and must receive insulin shots in his cell.
The prison administration is not providing these on a sufficiently regular basis and is refusing to replenish supplies of his other medications.
The four men were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2011 after an unfair trial for leading widespread peaceful anti-government protests. In the same case, nine other opposition activists received sentences ranging from five years to life imprisonment. Two of them have since been released.