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The United Nations condemns violations against prisoners of conscience in Bahrain

Four experts at the United Nations sent a letter of allegation to the Bahraini regime, condemning the unjust violations against prisoners of conscience in the country, especially the two political prisoners, Sheikh Zuhair Jassim and Ali Al-Wazir.

This was stated in a letter published by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

In the letter, the experts expressed deep concern about acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to which Sheikh Zuhair Jassim Muhammad Abbas (Ashour) and Mr Ali Abd al-Hussein Ali Hassan Ali al-Wazir were subjected.

The experts drew attention to the information received about violations of their rights, including arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, and lack of access to due process, based on information provided by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain to the working groups about the two victims.

United Nations experts in the offices of the aforementioned teams urged the government of Bahrain to take all necessary measures to stop the alleged violations, prevent their recurrence, and ensure that anyone responsible for the alleged violations is held accountable.

Notably, after a letter of allegation has been sent to the Government, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention may refer the case through its normal procedures for an opinion on the case of Sheikh Zuhair and Ali Al-Wazir. The government has to respond separately to the letter of allegation and the normal procedure.

The experts noted that this pattern of abuse against prisoners of the Shi’a community in Bahrain. They raised concern about acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against Sheikh Zuhair Abbas (Ashour) and Al-Wazir, which appears to be a pattern of ill-treatment of prisoners from the Shiite community in Bahrain.

They also expressed concern regarding violations of the right to liberty and security of persons and the right to a fair trial during the stages leading up to sentencing. They deplored the reported conditions of detention, the excessive use of solitary confinement and the denial of medical care, as well as the denial of basic safeguards such as access to a lawyer and family contact.

They expressed concern that the prisoners were prevented from practising their religion, thus violating their rights to freedom of religion and belief.

In the letter, United Nations experts and task forces highlighted the facts and violations that occurred following the quarrel that erupted on August 29, 2020, between Ali Abdul-Hussein Ali Hassan Ali Al-Wazir, a prisoner who shares the same cell with Sheikh Zuhair Abbas (Ashour) in Building No. 15, and a guard in Imprisonment because the latter is insulted to the religious ritual that Mr Ali al-Wazir was practising.

Sheikh Zuhair Jassim Muhammad Abbas was arrested on July 18, 2013. After that, he was subjected to various human rights violations, including various forms of torture, including severe beatings, electric shocks, forced standing, and being forced to sign confessions while blindfolded.

Sheikh Zuhair Ashour was convicted in three different cases amid trials marred by many violations of legal procedures. He was first sentenced to life imprisonment in November 2013 on charges of participating in the Riffa bombing, and was sentenced again in 2015 on charges of spying for abroad. In October 2017, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the second time on charges of financing and participating in a terrorist organization.

During his detention in prison, Sheikh Ashour was subjected to very harsh procedures, starting with physical and psychological torture, depriving him of food, drink, health care, hygiene, sleep and other methods of ill-treatment, until he reached the point of being unable to move for a long time, and he suffered health complications as a result of the torture.

Sheikh Ashour participated in many hunger strikes to demand better conditions inside the prison, including what caused him in August 2020 to move from one building to another to isolate him and place him with foreign prisoners, as this is considered a form of revenge to isolate him further and prevent him from performing the collective Ashura ceremonies (Shiite ceremonies).

Following his dismissal in August 2020, a quarrel took place between Ali Al-Wazir and the prison guard on August 29, when he was allegedly insulted by the minister’s Ashura rituals.

The guard was injured during the quarrel, and Sheikh Ashour and Al-Wazir were subsequently transferred to an unknown destination and were subjected to enforced disappearance. It was later known that he was held in solitary confinement from September 5 to January 7, 2021. Sheikh Ashour’s family did not know anything about him from July 2020 to January 17, 2021, despite the many attempts and complaints with various official human rights bodies.

Currently, Sheikh Zuhair Abbas (Ashour) is facing charges of incitement to commit murder in connection with the August 29, 2020 incident involving a prison guard. He is being held in Building 4, known to be for prisoners with serious and contagious diseases, putting Sheikh Abbas at risk of infection. The three prisoners in the cell allegedly assaulted and harassed him repeatedly.

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