In the summer of 2010, leading Bahraini academic and blogger Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace visited the UK to attend a seminar at the House of Lords.
During the seminar, Dr Al-Singace described the deteriorating human rights situation in his native Bahrain, speaking at length about the ‘triad of suppression’:
[There are] three pillars ensuring that activists and NGOs who work on exposing violations are seized and [condemned] somehow, ensuring that they are suppressed. The first is the use of force, torture and ill-treatment. [The] second is the use of the law. And [the] third is the judicial apparatus and procedures.
On returning home to Bahrain with his family, Dr Al-Singace was arrested at Bahrain International Airport. The official Bahrain News Agency reported that an unnamed security official claimed the arrest was in light of concerns that Dr Al-Singace could ‘damage the country’s stability’ and that he had ‘abused the freedom of opinion and expression prevailing in the kingdom.’ Dr Al-Singace was held incommunicado and in solitary confinement for six months, before being released in February 2011. He was re-arrested shortly afterwards and in June 2011 was sentenced to life imprisonment.
According to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, since his arrest in 2010, Dr Al-Singace has been verbally and physically abused, sexually molested, interrogated, and told that his female relatives would be raped. He has also frequently reported being deprived his basic needs, including access to medical attention and prescriptions. A fellow activist recently described how distressing it is to revisit footage from the seminar almost eight years later, knowing that Dr Al-Singace has since been subjected to many of the forms of torture he described at the House of Lords.
Earlier this month, English PEN and our colleagues at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) received information that Dr Al-Singace’s health has further deteriorated and that he continues to be denied access to the medical attention he requires. There are widespread concerns for his health and well-being.
We are grateful to members of the House of Lords – Lord Scriven, Baroness Bakewell, The Earl of Clancarty, Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC, Lord Bragg, Baroness Jones, and Lord Lipsey – who have today sent an open letter to the Foreign Secretary raising concerns for Dr Al-Singace and urging him to take action. We are also grateful to Lord Scriven for tabling a written question, asking the government what representations they have made to authorities in Bahrain on behalf of Dr Al-Singace.
The UK government can and must do more to challenge Bahrain’s treatment of Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and other political prisoners and to honour their commitment to ‘justice reform’ in Bahrain.
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OPEN LETTER TO BORIS JOHNSON
23 May 2018
Dear Boris Johnson,
We are writing to raise our deepest concerns for Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace, a Bahraini engineer, blogger and human rights activist who is being denied access to urgent medical treatment. and has not seen his family since February 2017, due to the humiliating conditions he is subjected to. Dr Al-Singace has been serving a life sentence in Jau Prison since 2011, in retaliation for his peaceful participation in pro-democracy protests.
In 2010, Dr Al-Singace travelled to the UK to attend a seminar at the House of Lords at which he raised the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain. Upon returning home, he was arrested, tortured, forced to stand and sexually assaulted by prison authorities.
Dr Al-Singace has been in a wheelchair from a young age due to partial paralysis in his legs, caused by post-polio syndrome and the ill-treatment he has been subjected to in Jau Prison, has exacerbated this medical condition. Furthermore, prison authorities are reported to have caused lasting damage to his ears and nose but have denied him access to the surgery needed to treat his injuries.
In May 2018, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and English PEN received information that Dr Al-Singace’s health has further deteriorated and has now begun to suffer from severe headaches and dizziness. Nevertheless, the prison authorities are still denying him the full medical attention he requires. Of further concern is the fact that Dr Al-Singace was reportedly prevented from attending a scheduled appointment with a bone specialist on 3 May.
According to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, prisoners should be given full access to necessary medical care and contact with their relatives. Dr Al-Singace’s inhuman treatment clearly falls short of international human rights standards and reflects a pattern of reprisals against human rights defenders, an extremely popular method to suppress political dissent.
In 2017, a coalition of NGOs including Human Rights Watch condemned the ‘degrading treatment of activists’ including Dr Al-Singace in Bahraini prisons, while in 2016 a coalition of 44 local & international NGOs called for his immediate release.
We urge the UK government to condemn the ongoing persecution of Dr Al-Singace and others detained in Bahrain, and to avoid relying on assurances provided by Bahrain’s human rights oversight bodies. In the past, Dr Al-Singace has refused to cooperate with these institutions, condemning them for ‘whitewashing’ the abuses committed by the government.
The UK has emphasised its commitment to ‘justice reform‘ in Bahrain. We urge you to honour this commitment by intervening in Dr Al-Singace’s case, ensuring he is able to seek medical treatment and ultimately securing his immediate and unconditional release.
The Earl of Clancarty
Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC