20 August 2018 – A group of 10 human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), have jointly issued a statement of concern for life-imprisoned political leader, Hassan Mushaima.
Mushaima, 70, has been denied access to critical medical treatment, family visitation, books and his personal notes. As a survivor of lymphoma cancer, Mushaima requires regular screenings to ensure his cancer has not returned. He was last granted access to this procedure in September 2016.
The rights groups have asserted that “This treatment is therefore interpreted by the prisoners, and by our organizations, to be both arbitrary and punitive, with the intention to humiliate and degrade prisoners of conscience.”
In protest to his father’s treatment, Mushaima’s son Ali is on the 20th day of his hunger strike outside of the Bahrain Embassy in London. During the early hours of 12 August, a foamy liquid was thrown from the balcony at the Embassy presumably in attempt to intimidate and deter Ali from continuing his protest. Ali vows to remain on strike, however, until his demands are met.
On 7 August, Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) issued a misleading statement dismissing Mushaima’s health concerns without conducting a full investigation or interviewing Mushaima directly.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has limited its response to advising Ali to seek recourse with Bahraini human rights oversight bodies, such as the NIHR, which receive training from the UK government. In July 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that the NIHR “lacks sufficient independence to perform its functions” and criticised Bahrain for failing to meet its treaty obligations.
The statement urges the Bahraini government to establish “truly independent and credible” human rights oversight mechanisms, and calls on the Bahraini authorities to lift the illegal restrictions on prisoners and ensure Mushaima’s release.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of BIRD, said: “Ali’s hunger strike exposes the ordeal facing political prisoners in Bahrain and the shield that the UK government will provide its allies. The Mushaima’s struggle symbolises the total inefficacy of the FCO’s training: Ali simply demands that his father be granted his basic rights. It appears that human lives matter little to the Bahraini and UK governments. What more is Ali expected to sacrifice before these governments decide to act?”