The United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) on Friday said it is “disturbed” by Bahrain’s security forces using “unnecessary and disproportionate” to break up a peaceful sit-in at the country’s central prison on April 27.
“We are disturbed by the use of unnecessary and disproportionate force by special police forces to dismantle a peaceful sit-in at Jaw Prison in Bahrain on April 17,” said the spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Marta Hurtado.
She also called on the ruling Al Khalifah regime in Manama to immediately launch a “thorough and effective” investigation into the violent repression of the sit-in at Jau prison, located south of the capital inmates have purportedly been tortured in the past.
Witnesses reported that “special forces threw stun grenades and beat detainees on their heads, badly injuring many of them,” Hurtado mentioned.
She added that Bahraini authorities took 33 demonstrators “to another building in prison, where they are being kept incommunicado, and have been unable to make contact with families or lawyers, in violation of both national and international law”.
The inmates were protesting poor detention conditions, including the lack of access to essential medical treatment.
The sit-in outside the Jau prison, south of the capital Manama, began on April 5, after political prisoner Abbas Malallah died after reportedly being denied prompt access to healthcare, OHCHR reported.
OHCHR said that limited healthcare in overcrowded Bahraini prisons “has been an issue for years, but has become a chronic problem” during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The spread of the pandemic in Bahrain’s prisons has sparked protests across the country. In response, the authorities have detained dozens of protesters for breaching COVID-19 restrictions,” Hurtado said.
Families of detainees held small protests outside the prison, demanding the release of political prisoners and better conditions.
The UN body called on authorities to provide timely medical treatment for inmates and urged authorities to consider releasing more detainees to ease prison congestion.
“In particular, those being detained for expression of critical or dissenting views, protected by international human rights law, should be released immediately,” Hurtado said.