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Bahrain 2022

Prisoners were tortured and subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment, including medical neglect, delays in medical treatment as reprisal and denial of contact with family members. Authorities continued to restrict freedoms of expression and assembly and to hold prisoners for exercising these rights. The government did not adequately protect migrant workers from exploitation or take adequate steps to address the climate crisis. The government tightened access to healthcare for stateless children.

Torture and other ill-treatment

At least six prisoners were tortured and otherwise ill-treated during the year.

In February, Ahmed Jaafar Mohamed told the Office of Public Prosecution’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU), the agency that investigates government abuses, that Jaw prison guards had beaten him when he was forcibly deported from Serbia to Bahrain on 24 January. The SIU told the UN that it was investigating the allegation, but did not report any results.

In March, authorities moved Ahmed Jaber Ahmed to an external hospital only after 11 months of illness had left him unable to walk or dress himself. The hospital diagnosed tuberculosis that had spread to his spinal column, requiring that he be put in a halo brace. Denial of medical care can be considered cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

In May, AbdAli Khayer, a Jaw inmate imprisoned on terrorism charges in a mass trial, said in a voice-recorded call from the prison that when he told a guard he needed treatment at the prison clinic for painful gout that was making it difficult for him to stand, the guard responded by beating him with his fists.

Right to health

The authorities violated prisoners’ right to health by failing to provide them with adequate medical care compared to that available in the community.

Prison officials deliberately denied access to medical care to prisoners who spoke out as a punitive measure. In retaliation for his chanting pro-Palestinian slogans, authorities refused to take prisoner of conscience AbdulHadi al-Khawaja from Jaw prison to a medical appointment for possible glaucoma for nine months, putting him at risk of blindness.1

When tuberculosis, an infectious disease, affected several inmates at Jaw prison, the administration did not institute preventive measures including contact tracking and testing. Authorities returned Hasan Abdulla Bati from hospital to his cell with eight other inmates two days after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.2

From June until the end of the year, the Ministry of Interior refused to schedule a dental appointment for 74-year-old Hasan Mushaima, even though he was suffering serious dental pain and had lost a tooth. He had been imprisoned since 2011 for participating in mass protests.

Detainees’ rights

Prison staff continued to punitively restrict phone and video calls with family members for prisoners who talked back to guards, even though prison regulations provide for four calls per week. Family visits with prisoners remained banned since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, leaving families without information when scheduled phone calls were cut without explanation. From 11 to 21 August, the administration at Dry Dock juvenile prison did not permit Ali Isa AbdulIthnashr to call his family after he argued with a guard.

In September, without explanation, Jaw prison denied 14 prisoners access to phone calls after moving them from their regular cells.

Authorities maintained their confiscation of the writings of AbdulJalil al-Singace, imprisoned since 2011 for exercising his right to freedom of expression that year. In response, he remained on a solid-food hunger strike for over a year, significantly weakening his health.

In November, authorities opened two new prosecutions against AbdulHadi al-Khawaja for insulting a prison guard and chanting political slogans.

Freedom of expression and assembly

Authorities continued to hold prisoners for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

In February, Amnesty International confirmed use of the Pegasus spyware against three Bahraini citizens who had criticized the government.3

During the final two weeks of November, authorities arrested and released six members of the family of prisoner of conscience Hasan Mushaima for peacefully protesting on his behalf. One was held for interrogation for two days.

Ten leaders imprisoned since 2011 for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly during mass protests that year continued to be held, as did prisoner of conscience Sheikh Ali Salman, an opposition leader serving a life sentence.

Migrants’ rights

The government continued to leave migrant workers unprotected from exploitation through the kafala (sponsorship) system.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Development failed to take the steps necessary to process the unpaid wages of at least 18 employees of dissolved construction company GP Zachariades. The employees had returned to their home countries without pay based on the Ministry’s assurance that it would work with the liquidators of GP Zachariades, which had benefited from Bahraini government contracts, to ensure they received their dues.

In August, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted that migrant workers continued to face employment discrimination and limited access to adequate housing, education and healthcare. Bahrain does not have a legislated minimum wage in the private sector, where most migrants work, unlike the public sector.

Women’s and girls’ rights

The government tightened access to public healthcare for families whose children are stateless due to Bahrain’s gender-discriminatory nationality law.

Under the Nationality Law, Bahraini women do not pass their nationality to their children. In April, government health clinics began requiring families of these stateless children to apply each time they sought free public health treatment.

In August, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about Bahraini laws that criminalize abortion in all cases, including when pregnancy is a result of rape, and discriminate against women in inheritance and the right to pass on their nationality.

Failure to tackle climate crisis

Bahrain did not update its NDC to carbon reduction in 2022. The annual regional report by the UN-sponsored Sustainable Development Solutions Network found that Bahrain’s action to reduce climate change, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 13, was stagnant. Bahrain has the third-highest rate of carbon dioxide emissions per capita in the world, according to World Bank data.

  1. Bahrain: Human rights defender at risk of blindness due to denial of medical care”, 1 April
  2. Bahrain: Prison officials’ inadequate response to tuberculosis cases in Jaw prison puts prisoners’ health at serious risk”, 9 June
  3. “Bahrain: Devices of three activists hacked with Pegasus spyware”, 18 February