Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have issued a letter urging Bahraini authorities to release prisoners of conscience. In an open letter addressed to the bloc’s foreign policy chief ahead of a meeting with his Bahraini counterpart this week, 16 MEPs voiced their concern about the state of human rights in the Gulf nation. “We are deeply concerned by the ongoing deterioration of human rights in Bahrain, following a year where, as highlighted by Human Rights Watch, there has been an ‘escalated repression’ of the Bahrain government against critics’,” the letter said. “We therefore kindly urge you to take this opportunity to hold your Bahrain counterparts accountable for their human rights commitments by raising the cases of European-Bahrain dual citizens Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Sheikh Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad and urging Bahrain to restore their moratorium on the death penalty.”
Last week a letter signed by 118 international and Bahraini rights groups was sent to the Government of Denmark urging them to seek the freedom of a Danish citizen. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was asked to take a pro-active stand to secure the immediate and unconditional release of Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja. He was arrested on April 9, 2011, for his role in organizing protests seeking political reform during the pro-democracy popular movement that began in February 2011. “There is no doubt that the conviction and sentencing of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was unfair and oppressive and tried to silence his prominent voice demanding the rights of Bahrainis,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Al-Khawaja should not have had to spend a single minute behind bars, yet he has been unjustly detained for almost a decade.”
Several native Bahraini prisoners remain under forced disappearance: Mohammad Fakhrawi, Sadiq Al Ghasra and Hassan Al Atiyya. For five months they have been targeted for revenge by khalifi torturers who denied them medical care, contacts with families and other ordinary rights. Their case has come to prominence in the wake of that of Sheikh Zuhair Ashoor Abbas who talked about his horrific torture.
On 20th January Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Lynn Maalouf, said: “We are extremely concerned by these claims of torture and the vulnerability that Sheikh Zuhair Jasim Abbas, or any other detainee, is exposed to as a direct consequence of being held incommunicado and in prolonged solitary confinement, in complete isolation from the outside world. No detainee should have their human dignity violated.” She was responding to the report of torture and other ill-treatment committed against Shi’a cleric Sheikh Zuhair Jasim Abbas, held in solitary confinement at Bahrain’s Jaw prison and denied communication with his family since late August 2020. After months of being held incommunicado by Bahraini authorities, with no contact with his family or lawyer, Abbas was finally allowed to speak to his family on the phone on 17 and 18 January. Abbas described in detail the torture and other-ill treatment he had suffered over the past five months. This includes being held in solitary confinement for months on end, being beaten by guards with fists, feet and hoses, being subjected to sleep deprivation and receiving water only twice per day. “The Bahraini authorities must immediately order a halt to the torture and ill-treatment of Sheikh Zuhair Jasim Abbas, ensure he is given a medical examination by an independent doctor and end his solitary confinement. Bahrain must also open a full inquiry by the Special Investigation Unit, the only government monitoring body with the power to prosecute the perpetrators,” said Lynn Maalouf.
Four members of Dáil Éireann, the Irish Lower House: Niall Collins TD, Brendan Howlin TD, Thomas Pringle TD, Joe O’Brien TD–put forward a number of questions to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney TD, concerning the case of Sheikh Zuhair Jasim Mohamed Abbas. Four further members of Dáil Éireann–Heather Humphreys TD, Bernard Durkan TD, Richard Bruton TD, Jim O’Callaghan TD–raised the case of Sheikh Zuhair Jasim Mohamed Abbas with Minister Coveney and were directed to Minister Coveney’s response on 14 January 2021 to parliamentary questions on this issue. In his response to these four TDs, Minister Coveney noted that “The Irish Government will continue to use all available avenues to raise human rights concerns with the Bahraini authorities” and that “I [Simon Coveney] am committed to working to ensure that human rights issues remain high on the international agenda, particularly during Ireland’s tenure on the UN Security Council.”
Saudi activist and human rights defender Mohammad Abdullah Al-Otaibi has joined scores of prisoners on a hunger strike this week to protest their ill-treatment. He had been handed by the Qatari authorities to the Saudis in 2017. He was subsequently sentenced to 14 years. Many prisoners have joined in this hunger strike. Among Al-Otaibi’s demands are that he be moved from the General Intelligence Prison in Al-Dhamam to a prison close to where his family lives in Jeddah. He is also requesting proper medical care as he suffers from high blood pressure and the prison administrators are not giving him access to suitable medication.
A Saudi kangaroo court has sentenced Mohammad BuJabara to nine months for orating religious relics and lamentations. This is part of the religious persecution of the citizens in the Eastern Province. He was involved in filming a cultural film in the desert. In the past few days Shia graveyards were repeatedly stormed by Saudi forces to remove flags, flowers and other items considered by the Wahhabis “items of polytheism.
Bahrain Freedom Movement