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Euro-Med Monitor: prisoners of conscience in Jaw Prison subjected to arbitrary procedures

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor issued a statement urging Bahraini authorities to take prompt action to prevent the spread of TB at Jaw Prison and to provide required medical care for individuals suffering with the disease.

At least two prisoners of conscience, Hassan Abdullah Habib Ali Ahmed and Mortada Muhammad Abd al-Ridha Jaafar Muhammad, were infected with tuberculosis in Jaw Prison, according to information obtained by Euro-Med Monitor, sparking fears of a further spread of infection due to apparent medical negligence and a lack of clear information from officials regarding detainees’ health status.

This medical incompetence corresponds with the administration of Jaw Prison implementing arbitrary steps against certain prisoners of conscience, such as lowering their time-out-of-cell hours, seizing their clothing and toiletries, and severing contact with their families.

Hassan Abdullah Habib Ali Ahmed, 27, has had TB symptoms since March of last year; he was sent to the hospital on 30 May 2022 after informed the jail authorities of his ailment. The same day he was diagnosed with TB, he was returned to prison. Now, he is frequently transferred between the jail and hospital, and he is in close touch with other inmates both in prison and en route to the hospital. There are no safeguards made to prevent the spread of infection.

His relatives informed Euro-Med Monitor, “Hassan is experiencing serious health issues.” He had sickle-cell anaemia and suffered a herniated disc following his incarceration. The physician who monitors his condition informed us in May that he had pulmonary TB, fluid buildup in the lungs, and gastric reflux.

“We fear that Hassan’s TB will reactivate, which might result in paralysis and other fatal problems. The jail administration’s reaction is unsatisfactory, and it refuses to give us with any [new] health information on Hassan.

Euro-Med Monitor has confirmed that another inmate at Jaw Prison, Murtada Muhammad Abdul-Ridha Jaafar Muhammad, is also infected with TB. He was also diagnosed with the condition in May of last year, and family members have been unable to see more current medical data on his health state.

Former inmate Ahmed Jaber was the first person diagnosed with TB at the penitentiary. Euro-Med Monitor authenticated a video clip in which he appeared following his release by speaking with his family.

In January and February of 2022, the prison administration cancelled all of Jaber’s medical appointments at Salmaniya Hospital, but was compelled to transfer him after protests from Jaber’s coworkers. He had been experiencing signs of the sickness as early as April 2021, although he was not admitted to the hospital until December 2021.

After seventy days, examinations revealed that TB had progressed to his neck, chest, and pelvic vertebrae. During the 70 days preceding his release, the authorities at Jaw did not take any extraordinary precautions to separate him from the other inmates.

On 2 June 2022, the Bahraini Ministry of Health confirmed that a prisoner had been diagnosed with TB, characterising his status as “stable” and stating that he was receiving “the required medical attention”. The Ministry stated that it is “doing the appropriate precautionary inspections on the detainees in contact with the case in order to [monitor] the overall health status.”

Ebtisam Al-Sayegh, a Bahraini activist, told Euro-Med Monitor, “We do not know the precise number of instances affected by medical incompetence since victims, their families, and anybody reporting on their condition fear violence.” There are contradictory reports on the number of individuals afflicted with TB. Patients suffering from scabies and other seasonal infections do not obtain the proper medicine or other medical attention. Today, the health and life of all detainees are of grave and immediate concern. We do not want these prisoners to leave jail dead or near death.”

She stated that human rights work in Bahrain is fraught with dangers. Al-Sayegh told us, “My colleagues and I experience unending persecution due to our job.” We feel threatened and maybe targeted.

Article 34 of the Bahrain Correction and Rehabilitation Institution Law states: “If it is proven by the centre’s doctor’s report that an inmate or pre-trial detainee has a contagious disease, the centre management must isolate him or transfer him to another location until he is cured, and the medical authorities and competent authorities must also be notified of this before his release.”

Article 344 of the Code of Criminal Procedure requires Bahraini authorities to at least postpone the execution of a sentence for detainees infected with tuberculosis: “If the person sentenced to a penalty depriving him of liberty is suffering a disease that is a threat in itself or is a threat to his life by reason of execution, execution of the penalty may be postponed.”

The Bahraini authorities must immediately provide the necessary medical care to detainees infected with tuberculosis and other diseases, disclose all data pertaining to the number of ill detainees and their health conditions, and release those suspected of contracting any disease in order for them to receive treatment.

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