Profile in Persecution: Dr. Abduljalil AlSingace

Dr. Abduljalil AlSingace is a prominent Bahraini human rights activist and former university professor and engineer, serving his life sentence in Jau Prison since 2011. Dr. Abduljalil was arrested and tortured by security officers following his participation in the 2011 pro-democracy protests at the age of 49 and charged with plotting to topple the government. Dr. Abduljalil is currently on a hunger strike which has lasted over 9 months, protesting the unjust and inhumane treatment in prison.

On 17 March 2011, around 48 officers, some masked and in civilian clothing, arrested Dr. Abduljalil from his house without presenting an arrest warrant. Some of the officers were heard speaking in a Saudi accent. They dragged him in his “underwear and without his glasses”, holding him at gunpoint. Officers reportedly beat him inside his house and on the street. Then, they took him to a police station for a few hours, and then moved him to AlQurain military prison where he was detained.

During his interrogation, Dr. Abduljalil was subjected to physical and psychological abuse. He was blindfolded and handcuffed, and officers brutally beat him. They hit his head with their fists and batons, and sexually assaulted him. Officer also forced him to lick their shoes and stand for long periods despite his medical condition. Dr. Abduljalil has suffered from several chronic illnesses since his youth, including post-polio syndrome and a musculoskeletal condition, which has required him to use a wheelchair or crutches to walk. Officers would force him to stand without crutches and kick him on his good leg until he fell. He was also placed in solitary confinement for 2 months and was given very little food, which caused him to lose 10 kgs. His cell was very small, with no light and cold temperature. Moreover, officers would  verbally abuse him by cursing and degrading him, telling him he does not deserve to live. They also threatened him and threatened to rape his daughter and wife.

As a result of the torture, Dr. Abduljalil gave a false confession and was sentenced to life imprisonment by the military National Safety Court in June 2011 on the charge of attempting to overthrow the government. He was imprisoned in Jau Prison where his health has deteriorated due to mistreatment.

During his imprisonment, Dr. Abduljalil continued to experience discomfort in his left shoulder and pain in his left rib due to the beating he endured from the officers. Furthermore, his carpal tunnel syndrome further deteriorated because he was forced to stand on his leg with his hands raised and cuffed. His vision also deteriorated after being deprived of his glasses for over a month.  The prison administration has  denied him access to the appropriate medical treatment. This medical negligence included withholding his prescriptions including medical devices. In June 2021, Jau Prison administration refused to replace the rubber padding on his crutches, and therefore, he was forced to use the worn-out ones that are uncomfortable and made him slip repeatedly  . Only after much international advocacy did the authorities accept to replace the paddings.

Dr. Abduljalil’s health has been further jeopardized by the hunger strikes that he has gone on throughout his imprisonment, to protest against the degrading and harsh practices and restrictions implemented by authorities. On 8 July 2021, Dr. Abduljalil started a hunger strike to protest the confiscation of a book he had been working on for four year, which focused on Bahraini culture and dialects.

After 286 days, Dr. Abduljalil’s strike is still ongoing, and his health has deteriorated significantly. He was taken to a hospital then transferred to Kanoo medical center. In the center, he is experiencing headaches, vertigo episodes, and shortness of breath. His hands are unusually cold and swollen, and he had to be given an oxygen mask after his oxygen levels dropped. He has lost over 20 kilograms, and his blood sugar level has dropped to 2 mmol/L. Dr. Abduljalil’s hunger strike currently involves drinking tea, milk, and sugar, along with salts and water. However, authorities have further reduced the portions of sugar provided to him under the pretense of a shortage. Doctors have neglected his situation, visiting him only once per 2 or 3 weeks, and his request for painkillers was being delayed.

Dr. Abduljalil has refused to end this strike, even after the officers said they would return the book if he does. He has agreed to end the strike only when authorities meet his demands, which include giving his family his new passport and ID, allowing him to have a video call to meet his newborn grandchild which he is being denied, providing him with medication prescribed by doctors which are available outside Salmaniya Hospital and AlKanoo Center, handing over the MRI images taken at the military hospital, providing him with crutches and a warm water bottle for his back, allowing him to receive pictures of his family, and handing over the research to his family.

The arbitrary arrest of Abduljalil, the torture and abuse he endured, and the restrictions imposed in prison are clear violations of the Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), both of which Bahrain is party to. His right to life, enshrined in Article 6 of the ICCPR, has been undermined not only by the medical negligence he has faced over the years, but also by his worsening situation as the administration continues to refuse to meet the demands of his hunger strike. Furthermore, the treatment and conditions in prison are a clear violation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain calls on Bahraini authorities to engage with the United Nations Special Procedures Offices in light of the Joint Allegation Letters issued in November and December 2021 and meet their requests. Furthermore, ADHRB demands that authorities immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Abduljalil, who was imprisoned due to his peaceful human rights activism, investigate allegations of torture and mistreatment to hold perptrators accountable, and ensure that Dr. Abduljalil receives adequate and timely medical treatment.