The authorities in Bahrain began at dawn, on Wednesday 11 March 2020, for several days, to release hundreds of convicts, in the context of the implementation of a royal pardon and alternative penalties.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) welcomes the positive steps to release a group of prisoners on humanitarian grounds, and according to what we have monitored, the vast majority of those released are a mixture of foreigners and Bahrainis held on criminal charges, while only a limited number of prisoners detained on the background of political issues were released.
In fact, we were disappointed that not more juveniles and inmates suffering from health conditions were included in this royal pardon, and we still are concerned of excluding the head of BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, from the list of those released, as well as the founding member of BCHR, Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja, and the activist Naji Fateel, all of whom are detained solely for the exercise of their legitimate right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.
With the Bahraini authorities releasing some political prisoners and leaving many others behind bars amid denying them adequate health care, it is clear that the royal pardon decision issued on 13 March 2020, which issued the release of 1486 prisoners with the application of “alternative penalties”, was limited.
Many political detainees are still behind bars despite their deteriorating health conditions and amid many international and human rights demands and appeals, as the release did not include those suffering from serious and chronic diseases such as Bahraini activist and academic, Dr. Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, who suffers from post-polio syndrome, sickle cell anemia and musculoskeletal disorders; it also did not include the elderly, such as Muhammad Jawad Parweez, who is one of the eldest detainees in Bahrain.
Based on the targeting activists for exercising their guaranteed rights is a violation of all international conventions, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) renews its call and urges the government of Bahrain to immediately release all activists and human rights defenders and to stop targeting them and give them space to work without retaliation or persecution.