Political Prisoner on Hunger Strike Asks Foreign Secretary to Suspend UK Funding to Bahrain

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16 September 2019 –  Political Prisoner Ali Al-Hajee issued a statement last week from Jau Prison exposing the inhumane conditions that he has faced for the past six years and continues to face on a daily basis. The letter, which is addressed to the Foreign Secretary and the British Ambassador to Bahrain, describes the severe physical and psychological abuse, medical negligence, and policy of collective punishment implemented against Al-Hajee and other political prisoners like himself.  

To protest poor prison conditions, on 15 August 2019, hundreds of political prisoners in Jau Prison launched a hunger strike, which Al-Hajee joined on 1 September to protest his denial of medical care. As Al-Hajee writes, he further calls for the suspension of the arbitrary use of “humiliating shackles” and for full access to religious rights without discrimination. Despite being responsible for the abuses against inmates, the head of Jau Prison, Brigadier Abdulsalam Al-Arifi, was invited to visit British prisons and to “develop rehabilitation programmes”. 

The letter demands that the UK government immediately suspends its technical assistance programme to the Gulf Kingdom. As noted, British training programmes to Bahraini institutions, including the Ombudsman, the National Institute for Human Rights, and the Special Investigation Unit, have been severely ineffective. The British-trained institutions have a tendency to facilitate the “whitewashing” of crimes, further perpetrate a “culture of impunity”, and deliberately mislead the international community. These trainings are being carried out with the UK government’s support and are used by the Bahraini government as a political tool to “maintain a facade of legitimacy and accountability”. 

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has recently described the human rights landscape in the Kingdom as a “mixed picture”, and has neglected to address the human rights violations made salient by Al-Hajee’s letter. This is despite violations being recognised by international human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch

 

Full Letter Below

6 September 2019

Dear Foreign Secretary and Ambassador,

My name is Ali Al-Hajee, and I am writing to expose the inhumane prison conditions political prisoners face in Bahrain and to demand that the UK government immediately suspends its technical assistance programme to the Gulf Kingdom.

The beneficiaries of the training – including the Ombudsman, the National Institute for Human Rights and the Special Investigation Unit as well as the Ministry of Interior – have consistently failed to fulfill their mandates and instead perpetrate a culture of impunity in the country which comes at great human cost.

I am one of thousands of political prisoners who suffer from severe physical and psychological abuse, medical negligence and a policy of collective punishment implemented by the prison administration. I am writing this letter at great personal risk; the last time I did so, in July 2019, my medical treatment was immediately suspended.

I am a prisoner since 2013. I was tortured to confess and was subjected to an unfair trial. My false, coerced confession was used by the court to sentence me to ten years’ imprisonment. I have been subjected to physical and psychological abuse and I am currently suffering from severe medical conditions for which I am denied treatment. To make matters worse, I have been prevented from seeing my family since February 2017, that is over 920 days.

On 15 August 2019, hundreds of political prisoners launched a hunger strike to protest poor prison conditions, which I joined on 1 September. For years, we have requested the prison administration to respect our basic rights, by ending the use of psychological and physical abuse as a form of punishment, providing us with the medical care we need, suspending the arbitrary use of humiliating shackles and allowing us to practice our religion without discrimination.

The multiple complaints we have submitted to oversight bodies to demand that they investigate our allegations and hold perpetrators to account have fallen on deaf ears. Rather than improving our

condition, these institutions became complicit in the abuses by issuing multiple statements in a deliberate attempt to mislead the international community.

I was extremely disappointed to learn that a few months ago the head of Jau prison, Brigadier Abdulsalam al-Arifi, was invited to the UK to visit British prisons and “develop rehabilitation programmes” despite being the individual responsible for all the abuses perpetrated at Jau Prison.1

The Bahraini authorities are using the training to maintain a facade of legitimacy and accountability before the international community. The UK government’s unconditional political support and training only embolden the Bahraini authorities to continue abusing its citizens without fear of repercussion. The UK cannot become complicit in these abuses or accept to be used as a political tool by dictators.

You have a moral responsibility to intervene when the ineffective institutions trained with UK funding are directly responsible for whitewashing crimes. The concerns expressed by the international human rights community about the lack of efficacy and independence of these bodies can no longer be ignored.

Without effective and independent oversight institutions promoting accountability for human rights violations, thousands of political prisoners, like myself, remain at risk, with little means for fruitful redress.

I hope you will consider my request.

Ali Husain Al-Hajee , Jau Prison,
Bahrain

 

Take Action & Email Your MP to ask that they urgently raise the case of Dr Abduljalil AlSingace

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