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Bahraini Scholars: Regime Using Coronavirus Crisis as Pretext to Suppress Detainees’ Families

Bahraini scholars accused the ruling regime authorities of using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to suppress people who demand the rescue of those detained on political grounds.

These accusations intersect with a report released this week by Amnesty International.

Regime forces have arrested the families of several prominent political prisoners after they participated in rallies in solidarity with their imprisoned loved ones.

So far, regime forces summoned two citizens, Jaafar Ramadan and Ramadan Issa, for interrogation on April 6. Citizens were summoned after their participation in a protest demanding the release of imprisoned activist Muhammed Ramdan, who has been sentenced to death.

Bahraini scholars affirmed in a joint statement that the Bahraini authorities “are still insisting on their arrogance over the truth, and they do not listen to the call of conscience or calls of reason.”

“This approach is disgraceful, and it indicates the nature of the authority that did not change from the character of those who preceded it from the corrupt and unfair authorities,” said the statement.

Scholars stressed that people will not calm down as long as there is one prisoner behind bars, and they will not leave one family alone to live day and night worrying about their children.

This week, Amnesty International accused the Bahraini regime authorities of using the Corona epidemic as a pretext to continue cracking down on political opponents.

This came in the annual report issued by the organization on the situation of human rights in the Middle East and North Africa.

The report for the year 2020/2021 monitored the ruling regimes’ exploitation of the Covid-19 epidemic of inequality and the escalation of repression.

The human rights report said, “The global pandemic exposed the horrific legacy of the controversial and deliberately destructive policies that perpetuated inequality, unfair discrimination and oppression.

The report provides a comprehensive analysis of global human rights trends in 2020 and how the leaders of the Middle East region and the rest of the world undermined the response to the global pandemic.

“By ruthlessly exploiting the crisis to continue their attacks on human rights,” according to the report.

According to Amnesty, authorities used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to continue suppressing the right to freedom of expression, including by prosecuting individuals, who posted comments on social media about government responses to the pandemic, for spreading “false news”.

Unfair trials of protesters, online critics of the government and relatives of these individuals continued, as did other suppression of freedom of expression.

Group trials of excessive numbers of defendants, in some cases amounting to mass trials, as well as other unfair trials also continued.

Furthermore, the Bahraini authorities’ response to the COVID- 19 pandemics included significant restrictions on movement and social life.

There were reportedly very high levels of testing, but this lacked basic transparency and did not include adequate protections for migrant workers.

The authorities rolled out an invasive contact tracing app, putting the privacy of millions at risk by tracking users’ locations in real-time.

Bahrain continued to deny access to independent human rights monitors, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and UN human rights bodies.

Prison conditions, especially in the central prison at Jaw in South-eastern Bahrain, were poor, with lack of sanitation and frequent ill-treatment, including arbitrary confiscation of personal items, reprisals for speaking out, and denial of adequate medical care.

The report indicated that Bahraini courts continue to issue death sentences, and the Court of Cassation supports the death penalty.

The Court of Cassation, Bahrain’s highest judicial authority, upheld for the second time the death sentences handed down on Mohammed Ramadan Isa and Husain Ali Moosa.

Heba Morayef, regional director for MENA at Amnesty International called 2020 “a catastrophic year” for those already marginalized, as the pandemic made their situation “more precarious than ever”.

“The pandemic has amplified divisions, discrimination and inequalities that already exist in the region. Governments must prioritize the provision of adequate medical care in prisons and to alleviate overcrowding; all those who have been arbitrarily detained must be released,” Morayef said.

“It is crucial that governments in MENA ensure the healthcare they provide, including vaccines, is delivered without discrimination.”


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