The Covid-19 pandemic has begun to spread among prisoners in Bahrain, where recently more than six inmates have been infected with the coronavirus and the number is increasing. While Bahrain has so far succeeded in combating the Covid-19 pandemic and has been commended for its protective measures internationally, its prisons are overcrowded without observing the Standard Minimum Rules of Health Care recommended by the World Health Organization.
Bahrain released 1,486 prisoners at the beginning of the pandemic; however, more than 60 political prisoners over the age of sixty are still behind bars suffering from health problems and chronic diseases. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is concerned that the virus will spread among them, which could pose a threat to their lives.
BCHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release the prisoners for humanitarian reasons, and to adopt the principle of social distancing to limit the spread of the virus in prisons, in addition to providing protective supplies such as masks, disinfectants, and gloves to reduce the risk of infection.
Nedal al-Salman, President of BCHR stated that “a catastrophe will occur if the authorities do not urgently handle this crisis, considering all prisoners alike, especially political prisoners”. She called for the adoption of health programs in prisons that take into account the humanitarian duty towards prisoners, in particular the elderly and inmates with chronic diseases (high blood pressure, heart disease, respiratory diseases, cancer, or diabetes), who are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus. Al-Salman called for their release, led by Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who recently reached the age of sixty, and the eldest political prisoner in Bahrain, Mohammad Jawad Parweez.
Earlier, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that “the release of political prisoners has become more urgent in light of the Covid-19 outbreak”.