19 June 2019 – Yesterday, sixteen cross-party MPs and Peers, including Caroline Lucas, Layla Moran, Diana Johnson and Sir Peter Bottomley delivered a letter to the British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt urging him to press the Bahraini government to end the abuse of female political prisoners. The signatories outlined a number of abuses reported by prisoners at Bahrain’s Isa Town Prison, including unjust restrictions on family visitation and accusations of medical negligence.
The letter highlighted the case of Hajer Mansoor, mother-in-law of the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, who claims that prison authorities have restricted access for several months to mammogram results and failed to arrange recommended follow-up appointments for a range of conditions including a lump in her breast and kidney stones. Reports of medical negligence are common in Bahrain; Amnesty International have condemned the practice and called for Bahrain to end their mistreatment and release Ms Mansoor.
The letter also drew attention to punitive restrictions on family visitation and prisoners time outside of their cells. When an assault led by prison director Lt. Col. Mariam Albardoli on Ms Mansoor and her cellmate, Medina Ali, was reported in the British press in September last year, prisoners have been restricted to their cells for up to 23 hours a day.
Since the assault, a glass barrier has also been erected between prisoners and their families during visits, preventing physical contact between prisoners and their relatives. Due to the distress such conditions would cause their young children and elderly parents, Ms Mansoor, Ms Ali and their cellmate, Najah Yusuf, have refused visits and therefore have not seen their children for over nine months.
Prison authorities refused requests for families to be able to visit the prison without the barrier for the Eid holiday – traditionally a time for clemency.
Today, BIRD received news that Ms Mansoor and her cellmates have had their phone calls suspended for a week, further contributing to their isolation.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, BIRD Director of Advocacy commented: “It is heart-breaking to see my mother-in-law subjected to such degrading treatment. Female political prisoners in Bahrain have consistently protested the deteriorating conditions in Isa Town Prison, to no avail. For too long there has been a deafening silence from the British government regarding conditions in Bahrain’s prisons; today’s letter sends a strong message that MPs will not permit Britain’s allies to abuse human rights unabated.”
– My mother in law Hajer Mansoor is being denied access to adequate medical care.
– Hajer, Madina & Najah haven’t seen their families for 9 months and counting. pic.twitter.com/tZyXwY91EC
— Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei (@SAlwadaei) June 19, 2019
Najah Yusuf is a Bahraini activist and mother-of-four, who was imprisoned in 2017 for social media posts which included criticism of Formula One’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Ms Yusuf’s allegation that her conviction depended on a confession coerced after she was tortured and sexually abused in detention triggered significant condemnation from international human rights groups in March this year.
Hajer Mansoor, along with her son Sayed Nizar Alwadaei and nephew Mahmood Marzooq, were declared as “arbitrarily detained” by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention earlier this year. UN experts deemed their sentences as a “reprisal” for the activism of her son-in-law, BIRD Director of Advocacy, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei.
Read the Letter by 16 MPs.