Bahrain: Covid-19 heralds a humanitarian catastrophe in prisons

At a time when the world is living in an unprecedented state of health in light of the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, and in light of all the preventive measures taken by governments to limit the spread of this epidemic, the Bahraini government continues to ignore international calls calling for the release of prisoners of conscience in light of concerns from the outbreak of the virus among them under the sanitary conditions in the prison.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights monitored the Bahraini government’s abuses and violations of human rights in prisons. According to the testimonies received, the cell for eight people is filled with more than fifteen prisoners who were prevented from family visits under the pretext of limiting the spread of the virus among them. That is while also prison guards and workers do not follow the minimum precautionary measures like wearing masks for example. Prisoners are also prevented from visiting the doctor even if they have symptoms of high temperature, while the World Health Organization stresses on the adherence to preventive measures and social distancing according to the instructions issued on March 15, 2020 regarding closed places like prisons.

In the absence of health care in Jau Central Prison, which includes more than 2,500 detainees, where there are only two doctors working in two shifts, the mere hearing of a coughing sound from one of the detainees would be a source of panic for his comrades because they are fully aware that the first infection inside the prison will constitute a real humanitarian disaster. Not only does this fear stand behind the prison walls, but the families of the detainees feel intense fear for their members.

Therefore, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls on the Bahraini government to:

  • Adhere to the Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners as stipulated in the Geneva Convention, particularly those relating to medical services.
  • Release prisoners of conscience, especially those who suffer from a fragile health condition that endangers their lives so that the virus does not pose a threat to them.