18 October 2018 – Today, 9 NGOs including the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), wrote to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Experts, urging them to publicly condemn the reprisals facing women human rights defenders, who have launched a hunger strike to protest their degrading treatment in Isa Town Prison, Bahrain.
The rights groups have also publicly expressed “grave concern for the total inefficacy of Bahrain’s human rights mechanisms”, and urged the High Commissioner to intervene in the case by calling “for the end of these punitive measures as well as the immediate and unconditional release of the three activists.”
Commenting, BIRD’s Director of Advocacy, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, said: “It is time for the UN to intervene in the case and end the suffering of these female activists so that they do not have to take such extreme measures to end their abuses”.
The letter expresses concern for political prisoners Hajer Mansoor, Medina Ali and Najah Yusuf, who were assaulted by prison guards on 16 September after being denied access to religious participation. The Times reported on the events. The three women started their hunger strike on Sunday 14 October, in light of the additional restrictions imposed an all inmates since the assault, to request that their basic rights in prison are respected, in line with international standards. They have now been transferred to the prison clinic, their blood sugar levels being very low; yet, it appears that they will refuse treatment until their demands are met, which include:
- Removing the barrier imposed during family visits which prevent any meaningful contact with their family members;
- Allowing adequate time outside the cell, given that inmates are currently locked in for 23 hours a day;
- Restoring the three weekly phone calls which, after the assault, have been reduced to two.
The rights groups condemned the “collective punishment” against prisoners of conscience, following their cases being raised at the UN and British parliament level, which suggests “a coordinated effort by the Bahraini authorities to avert international criticism by intimidating and punishing prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders.”
Despite Bahrain’s recent appointment as a member of the Human Rights Council, the authorities in the Kingdom seem reluctant to abide by their international human rights obligations. Given the failure of the local human rights mechanisms, the NGOs appealed to the High Commissioner and UN experts to intervene in the case.