BCHR fears a tuberculosis outbreak in Jau prison

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses concern about reports of tuberculosis in Jau prison. Currently, there is one confirmed case of tuberculosis in prison, while another two inmates have symptoms of the illness but have not been tested so far.

Political prisoner Hassan Abdullah Habib, who spent eight years in prison of his 27 prison term, was transferred to Salmaniya Medical Complex last week after an episode of severe pain due to sickle cell anemia. Hassan suffers from several health conditions, including problems in the colon and spine, sickle cell anemia, and thalassemia. In the hospital, doctors informed Hassan that he had tuberculosis. However, he was transferred back to Jau prison this week despite his confirmed contagious illness.

In a recording released online, Hassan explained his medical conditions and accused Jau prison administration of medical negligence. He called Bahraini governmental oversight bodies to follow up on his case and ensure he gets proper medical attention or work on his release to continue his treatment outside prison.

Another two political prisoners, Sayed Nizar al-Wadaei and Mortada Mohmed Abdel-Reza, have symptoms of the illness as they were in close contact with Hassan. Their families reported the prison administration’s failure to carry out tuberculosis tests for them. All three shared a cell with a fourth prisoner, Ahmed Jaber, who was released from prison under the Alternative Penalty Law in late February after months of illness.

On 2 June 2022, the Bahraini Ministry of Health confirmed Hassan’s illness of tuberculosis in a statement. The Ministry said that Hassan’s condition is stable and he is getting treatment although Hassan’s voice recording from prison on 1 June 2022 says otherwise. The Ministry also added that “it is conducting the necessary precautionary checks on the rest of the inmates who were in contact with Hassan.” However, it was reported that Sayed Nizar was held in solitary confinement for three days for requesting proper testing for tuberculosis this week, and his mother was threatened with arrest when she visited the prison on Wednesday to demand her son get tested.

Currently, it is not clear where Hassan Abdullah Habib is being held in Jau prison and if he is being held separately from other inmates to prevent a tuberculosis outbreak. Moreover, the Ministry of Health did not explain what exactly the measures taken in prison for contact tracing and isolation and when tuberculosis tests will be carried out in prison.

Accordingly, BCHR calls on the Bahraini government, in particular the Jau prison administration and the Ministry of Health, to take all necessary measures to prevent the spread of tuberculosis in prison. BCHR requests the immediate provision of appropriate medical treatment to Hassan Abdullah Habib and the conduct of proper medical tests for those who have been in contact with him without delay. The government has to take all necessary measures to prevent a tragedy in Jau prison.