Calling for the Immediate Release of Abdujalil Al-Singace: Analysing Bahrain’s Failure to Implement International Law Standards

On April 4, 2024, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and 27 other human rights organizations reiterated the urge to release human rights defender Dr. Abdujalil Al-Singace immediately. The organizations wrote a letter to King Hamad bin Isa al- Khalifa and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, underlining the human rights defender’s health deterioration. The doctor is following a 1000-day liquids-only hunger strike.

ADHRB has largely documented his wrongful detention and condemned the Kingdom for failing to secure adequate healthcare. At the beginning of 2023, ADHRB denounced that Bahrain was employing a widespread policy of medical negligence as retaliation against political opponents. In this context, Dr. Al-Singace’s unjust detention is symbolic of a country that denies implementing international law standards for its prisoners. The international community needs to immediately stop Bahrain’s policy at the UN and interstate levels.

Multiple ongoing violations of international law standards are involved in the Al-Singace case. His case will be legally analyzed as it symbolically represents the gravest and most famous example of the mistreatment of prisoners. Nonetheless, ADHRB is convinced that this analysis can be valid for many more cases of abuse of prisoners ongoing in the Kingdom.

Firstly, the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Mandela Rules, represent the primary safeguards for prisoners (and an obligation to protect by Bahrain). The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), ensured the creation of these provisions in 1950. The rules are based on an obligation to protect prisoners, prohibit torture, and offer various measures regarding medical services.

In addition, Bahrain is failing to employ the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted on 14 December 1990 by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 45/111.  In particular, Bahrain does not fulfill Principle (1), entailing that prisoners be treated with respect for their inherent value as human beings. In addition, Principle (9) also provides that prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination.

Finally, it is essential to highlight that Bahrain ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 22 September 2011. This convention is particularly relevant to the case of Dr. Al-Singace as he is currently in a wheelchair and incurs the risk of heart strokes. This convention recognizes the importance of granting people with disabilities the right to health. To do so, state parties must take positive measures to foster their health status, a prerogative deeply entrenched in the dignity and autonomy of people.

To conclude, at a legal level, the Mandela Rules are ‘’soft law,’’ meaning they are non-legally binding. On the other hand, an argument can be made that both the Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Resolution on Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners are formally binding. In the Nicaragua case, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) pointed out that the resolutions of the UNGA for their character are authoritative and represent the fundamental legal guidelines of the state members of the UN. On the other hand, Bahrain has not ratified the Optional Protocol on the Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, entailing that the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities cannot make inquiries over grave and systematic violations of a State Party of the provisions convention. ADHRB believes the international community must use these arguments (along with many others) to keep Bahrain accountable for its human rights violations. Again, ADHRB reiterates the urge to release Dr. Al-Singace and calls Bahrain to implement the above-mentioned international law standards.