Three Bahraini human rights organizations, 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), demanded the release of prisoners in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.
The organizations demanded the Bahraini authorities to take further measures to protect the health of detainees in Bahrain, in line with Stranded Minimum Rules for the treatment of prisoners, indicating that releasing prisoners of conscience is the right step, as many countries have done, because prisoners have the right to freedom and to overturn arbitrary judicial rulings against them.
The three human rights organizations expressed their concern about the fate of detainees in Bahraini prisons if the Coronavirus pandemic spreads inside the prisons, 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 organizations 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 rest of prisoners. Furthermore, the arrest of citizens for political reasons must be stopped.
They 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 organizations 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 organizations 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.