3 February 2020 – Today, hundreds of Bahrainis took to the streets to mourn Sayed Kadhem Abbas, a 24 year old former political prisoner who tragically died from terminal cancer following egregious medical negligence during his detention in Jau Prison between 2015 and 2018, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) said today.
Photos and videos circulated online in the wake of this tragic death show large crowds of mourners lamenting the loss of Kadhem, raising his photograph above their heads and calling him a “martyr”.
Sayed Kadhem hailed from Al-Sahla village and suffered from no known diseases prior to his detention in 2015. Sayed Kadhem was featured in a September 2019 letter by four UN experts decrying the denial of medical care at Jau Prison, detailing that he suffered for three years with grave health problems including severe headaches, inability to stand, continuous vomiting, and finally, the loss of his sight following an operation at the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) hospital.
Sayed Kadhem was released temporarily in July 2018 on humanitarian grounds.
Husain Abdulla, Executive Director at ADHRB, commented: “The death of this young man is a tragic reminder that political prisoners in Bahrain face a systematic denial of medical treatment by authorities at Jau Prison. The full extent of abuses in Bahrain’s prison remains in the dark as Bahrain continues to deny independent experts access to the country, including the UN Special Rapporteurs.”
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD, commented: “This tragedy must be a wakeup call to Bahrain’s allies. Without political pressure, prisoners will continue to suffer and Kadhem’s tragic death will not be the last.”
Ministry of Interior Ombudsman response to the allegations of medical negligence
In May 2018, Sayed Kadhem’s family lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman stating that he was “not receiving treatment and as a result he was not able to attend his court hearing in April 2018”. However, according to the Ombudsman’s investigation, Sayed Kadhem was not admitted to the BDF hospital until June 2018, two months after he was forced to miss his court hearing and three years after his symptoms first appeared. When he was finally examined at the BDF hospital, Sayed Kadhem was “diagnosed with a tumor in his head”.
The prolonged negligence which Sayed Kadhem endured before his death is in stark violation of the Mandela Rules, and indicative of systemic denial of medical care in Bahraini prisons, examples of which have been documented by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.