Many countries are reporting a surge in Covid-19 cases due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, among which Bahrain recorded more than 3 K cases in a single day last week, the highest number since the onset of the pandemic, marking a nearly 700% spike in infections when compared to January of 2021.
In a video shared via social media, human rights defender Ebtisam Al-Saegh pleaded with the country’s health authorities to examine a group of detainees, in Bahrain’s overcrowded and unsanitary Jaw Central Prison, who suffer from Covid-19 symptoms, and aren’t receiving adequate care.
For her part, an investigation by Front Line Defenders reported that al-Saegh had her mobile device hacked by an advanced spyware made by Israel’s NSO Group. NSO Group’s Pegasus malware hacked Al-Saegh’s phone at least 8 times between August and November 2019. Bahrain is among the GCC states that used the and Israeli malware, and is believed to have acquired access to the NSO spyware in 2017.
In the same context, rights activists also reported that detainee and torture victim Khalil Al-Saffar has been denied access to treatment after a fall that aggravated an existing skull injury. refuse to transfer him to hospital. Sentenced to 20 years in prison, Al-Saffar endured severe psychological and sexual torture since his arrest in 2015. He already suffers from severe headaches but authorities.
Meanwhile, 48 British MPs added their signatures to a motion tabled in parliament, which underscores their concerns over “serious Human Rights violations in Bahrain.” The lawmakers call on Manama “to release all prisoners of conscience, enable civil society representatives and Human Rights defenders to operate freely, permit genuine political opposition and independent media.”
Bahrain Prisoners; Abduljalil al-Singace
Besides, a group of 27 rights organizations called in a joint letter for the release of Dr. Al-Singace who has been on hunger strike for more than 200 days protesting the confiscation of his academic research. The letter urges the US, UK, EU, and German governments to raise Al-Singace’s case with the Bahraini authorities, expressing serious concern over Al-Singace’s deteriorating health. Al-Singace was detained and tortured in 2011 for his participation in pro-democracy protests. He was then charged with “terrorism” and sentenced to life in prison.
Further, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor along with other UN experts have also expressed their growing concern about Al-Singace’s deteriorating health as he suffers from chronic medical conditions and is reportedly being denied adequate treatment. In a letter to Manama, the UN experts also expressed their “continuing concern as to the detention of Mr. Al-Singace, which […] appears to be solely based on his legitimate advocacy for the respect and protection of human rights in Bahrain”.
The Gulf Center of Strategic Studies (GCSS), a London-based organization, has been accused of silencing criticism of Manama’s human rights record. A group of UK MPs said GCSS director, Omar Al-Hassan, is “in the pocket of the Bahraini Embassy here in the UK.” Al-Hassan, who has previously organized trips to Bahrain for MPs through the GCSS, was formerly a research assistant to ex-Conservative MP William Powell in the 1990s. Powell was reportedly receiving regular payments from the GCSS and served as a consultant to the group. The GCSS has had a long history of defending Bahrain’s human rights record, including submitting evidence to select committees and organizing ‘study’ trips to the Gulf kingdom.
Now, the International Service for Human Rights threw the spotlight on the plight of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja by awarding him with the 2022 Martin Ennals award, which honors human rights defenders from around the world, who show exceptional commitment to promoting fundamental rights, often at the risk of their own lives.
The detained rights advocate is dual Bahraini-Danish citizen, a torture victim, and is currently serving a life sentence.