The human rights office calls for a full investigation into the “violent crackdown” on a peaceful sit-in at Jau prison by special police forces.
The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said it was “troubled” by the “unnecessary and disproportionate” force used by Bahraini police to dismantle a peaceful sit-in in the country’s main prison at the start of the war. month.
During a press briefing on Friday, Marta Hurtado, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on the Bahraini government to immediately open a “thorough and effective” investigation into the violent crackdown on the United Nations. sit-in at Jau prison, located south of the capital, Manama, on April 17.
She cited testimonies that “special forces threw stun grenades and hit detainees on the head, seriously injuring many of them.”
Hurtado also said authorities took 33 protesters “to another prison building, where they are being held incommunicado and have not been able to contact families or lawyers, in violation of the law. national and international ”.
The detainees protested against the conditions of detention, in particular the lack of access to medical care.
Tensions have been mounting in the prison since a COVID-19 outbreak last month, which authorities said had been contained.
The sit-in began on April 5, following the death of political prisoner Abbas Malallah after being denied timely access to essential health care, according to OHCHR.
Outside the prison, the families of the detainees had organized small demonstrations to demand the release of political prisoners and better conditions.
Following the dismantling of the sit-in, the disbanded opposition group al-Wefaq, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said the forces of security had used excessive force.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of BIRD, a Bahraini activist living in exile, said a prisoner told him detainees formed human chains in a sit-in that security forces tried to break.
“They surrounded [one prisoner] and we could see the batons going up and down on his body until they took him out, ”the detainee was able to hear in a taped telephone conversation shared by Alwadaei with the Reuters news agency.
The prison agency, the Directorate-General for Reform and Rehabilitation, said in a statement to state media at the time that several inmates at the prison blocked hallways and refused to enter their homes. neighborhoods.
The detainees disregarded the warnings for several days to put an end to the behavior which required “security and legal measures to be taken against the detainees who were in violation and committed acts of chaos and violence against the police”, the agency said.
Bahrain’s National Human Rights Institution said on April 18 that it had visited the prison to investigate the incident and found that “what was raised about [inmates] to be beaten and transported to unknown places is incorrect ”.
In Friday’s briefing, OHCHR said the lack of healthcare in Bahrain’s overcrowded prisons “has been a problem for years, but has become a chronic problem” during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The spread of the pandemic in Bahrain’s prisons has sparked protests across the country. In response, authorities arrested dozens of protesters for violating COVID-19 restrictions, ”Hurtado said.
The United Nations also called on the authorities to provide timely medical treatment to detainees and urged authorities to consider releasing more detainees to reduce prison congestion.
“In particular, those detained for expressing critical or dissenting opinions, protected by international human rights law, should be released immediately,” Hurtado said.