Today, 19 September 2023, the UN Secretary-General published ( A/HRC/54/61) their annual report on reprisals against individuals who cooperate with United Nations mechanisms, detailing the cases of five former and current political prisoners in Bahrain: Hassan Mushaima, Dr Abduljalil AlSingace, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, and Sayed Nizar Alwadaei.
The UN Human Rights Council “expressed its concern over continued reports of intimidation and reprisals against individuals and groups seeking to cooperate or having cooperated with the United Nations and condemned all acts of intimidation and reprisal committed by Governments and non-State actors against such individuals and groups”.
The report titled “Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights” will be presented at the 54th session of the Human Rights Council on 28-29 September 2023.
In a statement released last week, UN expert Mary Lawlor said that she was “extremely concerned about the deteriorating health of Mr Abduljalil Al-Singace, Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Mr Naji Fateel. Medical negligence and lack of adequate care has left them in a worrying state.”
The publishing of this report coincides with Bahrain’s continued attempts to evade international scrutiny and accountability. Last week, a planned visit by the OHCHR was “postponed until further notice” and Bahraini authorities prevented a delegation of human rights defenders from travelling to Bahrain, which included Bahraini citizen Maryam Al-Khawaja, and the Secretary General of Amnesty International Agnes Callamard. Maryam intended to visit her imprisoned father Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is being denied medical care in prison. This trip would put pressure on Bahraini authorities to release him and other prisoners of conscience. Mr. Al-Khawaja took part in the prison hunger strike of over eight hundred inmates and was rushed to the emergency room. While other inmates suspended their strike following concessions, Al-Khawaja had resumed his strike earlier this month.
On 17 July 2023, the Bahrain Government responded to the note verbale sent in connection to the present report and stated that in Bahrain no one is arrested because of peaceful political activity or affiliations.
Key findings of the Secretary-General Report:
Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja: The case of Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was included for the fifth time. The report notes that on 17 February 2023, special procedures mandate holders addressed allegations of ill-treatment, additional criminal charges, and deteriorating health conditions of Mr. AlKhawaja. Further notes, On 3 April 2023, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders expressed concerns publicly at reports of the worsening health condition of Mr. Al-Khawaja and called on the Government to provide urgent medical care and immediately release him.
Sayed Nazar Alwadaei: For the first time, the report raises the case of “Mr. Sayed Nazar Naama Baqqer Ali Yusuf Alwadaei, the brother-in-law of Mr. Al-Wadaedi, who reportedly remains imprisoned in Jau Prison serving an 11-year sentence in reprisals for the activism of his brother-in-law, Mr. Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei”.
Dr Abduljalil AlSingace: The case of Mr. Abduljalil Al-Singace was raised for the fifth time, with “allegations of arbitrary arrest, torture and the imposition of a life-imprisonment sentence following his engagement with several United Nations bodies and mechanisms”. The report states that Mr AlSingace continues to be held in solitary confinement at Kanoo medical centre, where he remains on a hunger strike since July 2021. The report cites the April 2023 decision by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention which deemed his detention arbitrary.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei: Mr AlWadaei and members of his family have been included in three previous reports, including “allegations of arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment, removal of citizenship and reprisals against family members for Mr. Al-Wadaei’s continuous engagement with the United Nations”.
Hassan Mushaima: Mr. Hassan Mushaima, the former Secretary of the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy, who was convicted and sentenced to life on terrorism charges, was included for the fourth time. The report notes that “on 22 November 2022, four members of Mr Mushaima’s families were arrested after a sit-in protest outside the Kanoo Medical Centre requesting urgent medical treatment for his medical conditions”.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD):
“The United Nations has once again highlighted the continued risks and repercussions for Human Rights defenders in Bahrain despite their claims to follow international standards and laws.
The aim of these attacks is to intimidate and discourage Bahrainis from working with the UN and demonstrate the lengths Bahrain’s regime is willing to go to avoid scrutiny and cover up their abuses. The timing of this report comes after Bahrain’s cancellation of the OHCHR visit to the country.
While the Bahraini government continues to evade accountability, its Western allies in the US, UK, and EU must call on the government to end these attacks and reprisals and to fully cooperate with the UN”.