Bahrain: Political Prisoners prevented from attending funeral of their close relatives

Left to Right: Hassan, Mahmood, Naji

The Ministry of Interior does not consider death a sufficient reason for the temporary release of detained activists

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its grave concern over the ongoing harassment by the authorities in Bahrain against imprisoned activists and political prisoners.This includes the recent cases of depriving several political prisoners from the right to temporary release to attend the funeral of their relatives. Some of the recent cases included human rights defender Naji Fateel, author and photographer Mahmood Albdulsahib, and the cousin of the victim of extrajudicial killing Ahmed Farhan, Hassan Abdulghani.

Athlete, Author and photographer Mahmood Abdulsahib Baqlawah- International Horse Riding Judge- is serving a 3.5 years prison sentences in Prison of Jaw for “illegal gathering” during Feb and Mar 2011. His father died on Friday, 3 July 2013. His brother, Fahmi Abdulsahib, stated that the administration of Jaw prison refused to implement the decision made by the judge regarding Baqlawah’s temporary release to participate in the funeral ceremony of his father. Fahmi stated the administration of Jaw prison has deprived his brother Mahmood from his legitimate right according to Jaw prison list of detainees’ rights. It is also considered further retribution after Mahmood’s arrest on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 – during the period ofemergency– and after his sentence in a military court to 5 years in prison for charges related to illegal gatherings which was later reduced to 3.5 years.

Human rights activist Naji Fateel –Board Member of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights –is in detention at dry dock prison since May 2013 while waiting for trial on charges of “forming the 14th of February youth coalition cell”. His aunt died in Tuesday, 2nd of July 2013, and as a tool of further punishment, the administration of the Dry Dock prison refused to allow him to attend her funeral without providing any clear justifications. Fateel’s picture has already been displayed on Bahrain state television along with his accusations as part of news show, which is considered a violation to his most basic rights as a detainee since his case is still under investigation.  Fateel denied all charges brought against him, and told the judge in court that he was tortured to sign confessions; taking off his shirt to reveal torture marks. Fateel’s family is still not able to visit him since his arrest at dawn on Thursday, 2 May 2013, as the prison administration keeps telling his family that he is the one refusing any family visits or calls.

Hassan Abdulghani Farhan 20 years old, is in detention at Dry Dock prison since Dec 2012 pending trial on alleged charges related to participating in the burning of a police station with terrorist motives. His father died at dawn on Saturday, 29 June 2013. Hasan was not allowed by prison administration to attend the funeral of his father. Hassan Farhan, released a statement on Monday, 1 July 2013, in which he expressed his sadness and frustration towards the administration of theDry Docks prison that“has prevented him from his right to take a last glance at his dead father”, a flagrant violation of his rights.

The accustomed procedure followed for the criminal prisoners is to release the prisoner on a daily basis from morning to evening for three days to attend funerals of their deceased close relative, during which they would usually be accompanied by security officers for the entire period. However, the above mentioned cases are not the only cases where the authorities have explicitly denied political detainees of their right to the temporary release to participate in the funeral of their relatives. The administration of Jaw prison denied the detained president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, in October 2012 request to attend the remaining days of his mother’s funeral after he talked to the crowds of mourners about the need to continue the peaceful struggle for rights. The public prosecutor said in a statement to the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) that Rajab violated the rules prescribed by the law through a provocative speech he gave to the mourners. The speech included the incitement to participate in illegal demonstrations and violating the law. In addition, the administration of Jaw prison refused to temporarily release Shaikh Mohammed Ali Mahfouz, the Secretary-General of the Islamic Action Society “Amal” to participate in the funeral of his sister in Jan 2012 without providing anyreasons.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) believes that the ongoing harassment of political prisoners is an additional punishment against those who criticize the regime or call for protests. The psychological and emotional implications of denying someone the right to see a close relative for the last time; especially in cases in which the prisoner may be in solitary confinement, can be detrimental. Attending the burial/funeral of a close relative is crucial for going into a normal grief reaction. Political prisoners may be at higher risk of going through an intense psychological grief reaction due to being incarcerated adding to the fact that they may blame themselves for the death of the close relative due to their arrest and/or torture; and the excessive feeling of guilt may cause severe deterioration to the mental state of the individual, including acute depression.

Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) demands the following:

  • The immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Bahrain.
  • Commitment of all departments of the Jaw Central Prison and Dry Dock prison to protect the rights of the detainees and to allow them to attend the funeral of their relatives.
  • Accountability for individuals whom are responsible for these violations and have impeded the implementation of decisions about the temporary release of detainees to participate in the funeral of their relatives.