MANAMA (Dispatches) – The United Nations has condemned the use of "unnecessary and disproportionate” force against a peaceful sit-in at Bahrain’s notorious Jau prison, where inmates have allegedly been tortured in the past, and called for an investigation into the matter.
Inmates at the prison had begun a protest in the second week of April to highlight the lack of access to medical treatment, which, although being an issue for several years, has become a larger problem amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The sit-in began after a prisoner died due to a lack of healthcare access, according to the UN.
On 17 April, riot police entered the prison to suppress the protest and "threw stun grenades and beat detainees on their heads,” causing a number of injuries.
Since then, 33 prisoners have been held incommunicado, adding up to a total of at least 60 prisoners that have been deemed missing, according to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD).
"We call on the Government to immediately launch a thorough and effective investigation into the violent repression of the sit-in at Jau prison,” the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a statement on Friday.
"We also urge them to provide information on the well-being of the 33 prisoners currently held in incommunicado detention, and to ensure they are able to contact their lawyers and families.”
Tensions had been rising in the country’s main Jau prison since an outbreak of Covid-19 last month, which authorities said had been contained. Outside the prison, detainees’ families have been holding small protests demanding the release of political prisoners and better conditions.
Irish MPs also called on their government to address the serious human rights violations in Bahrain’s Jau prison and lead a joint European statement in this regard, London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper reported, amid increased calls to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain.
Five parliamentarians submitted strongly worded questions to Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney regarding efforts by Dublin to lead a joint statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) during the upcoming 80th meeting of the standing committee.
Meanwhile, four members of the Irish Senate reportedly brought up violations committed by Bahraini authorities in Jau prison with Coveney through direct correspondence.
Similar moves are taking place in the Italian parliament. MP Emilio Carelli submitted a question regarding the issue to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi di Maio, and requested a written response on the government’s position on the issue, including concerns about "a potential rise of death sentences, the increase of torture against detainees, and persecution of human rights defenders, lawyers and activists”.
Bahrain’s most prominent cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim has expressed concern over the alarming situation of healthcare in the country’s prisons and jails, renewing his call for the immediate release of political inmates in light of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Demonstrations in Bahrain have been held on a regular basis ever since a popular uprising began in mid-February 2011.
The participants demand that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.