Profile in Persecution: Hasan Mushaima

Updated: Mr. Hasan Mushaima is a prominent Bahraini opposition figure and political prisoner who has been serving his life sentence in Jau Prison since 2011 after being charged with attempting to overthrow the government in light of his role in the pro-democracy demonstrations. During his imprisonment, authorities have been subjecting the 76-year-old to maltreatment and medical negligence. He has been in prolonged solitary confinement since July 2021 at the Kanoo Medical Center as a retaliatory measure. On 16 November 2023, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) adopted an opinion concerning four elderly Bahraini opposition leaders, including Mr. Hasan Mushaima, concluding their detention as arbitrary and calling for their immediate and unconditional release, as well as a thorough and independent investigation into the violations of their rights. 


Since his imprisonment, Mr. Mushaima has faced various restrictions and has been denied his basic rights, including adequate health treatment. Mr. Mushaima, who is in cancer remission, suffers from many chronic diseases including hypertension and diabetes, and has been denied medication and regular checkups for prolonged periods, despite several specialist evaluations indicating that he requires regular treatment and follow-up. His diabetes and blood pressure medicines are also not provided consistently. Painkillers and medicinal drugs were also not adjusted to his needs.


Furthermore, the prison administration constantly cancels his medical appointments without informing him. For instance, authorities have prevented him from undergoing regular Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans which he requires every six months since he is in remission. Even when the scans are done, results are delayed for a long time although they require only one day to be released. Officers have also used the degrading practice of shackling prisoners while taking them to medical clinics. Many prisoners, including Mr. Mushaima, refused these practices and thus were denied the required medical treatment. Due to his severe health problems, his situation has been critical and the lack of treatment is causing him “a slow death”.


Between 2011 and 2019, five different UN special procedure communications demanded that the Bahraini government provide the opposition leader with the necessary medical care, to no avail.


On 19 October 2020, Mr. Mushaima was rushed to the hospital due to shortness of breath. Doctors requested that he be seen by a specialist. However, authorities neglected this request and no appointment was made. As a result, Mr. Mushaima’s health deteriorated further in November 2020, and he was transferred from Jau Prison to the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital, where he was put on an emergency respirator for the second time since October 2020. He was returned to prison after about 6 hours. Again, doctors requested that he see a specialist. Five days later, authorities finally arranged the requested appointment. It was revealed that the cause of his high blood pressure and shortness of breath was a weak heart. The doctor prescribed him medication and requested another consultation after he finished his month-long course of medication.


In May 2021, after being quarantined for 2 months on the pretext of receiving care, Mr. Mushaima developed new symptoms including abnormal swelling of feet with black spots, large swelling in his leg, severe knee pain, limping, and difficulty moving. As a result, he was taken by ambulance to the BDF hospital and returned to the quarantine block at 2:00 A.M. Doctors suspected inflammation and prescribed medications, stating that his condition requires regular follow-ups. After his health deteriorated, neither he nor his family was allowed to see his medical records. Moreover, the Ministry of Health in Bahrain posted a false statement in which it said that Mr. Mushaima’s situation is stable and being monitored.


Two months later, in July 2021, due to his medical situation, Mr. Mushaima was moved to the Kanoo Medical Center, where he remains. His tests showed extremely high blood sugar and blood pressure levels. He also suffers from undetermined damage to his kidneys and stomach, a cyst on his eye, and a heart muscle issue. However, he has not been receiving the needed treatment and is still suffering from many medical complications. The lack of movement and unsuitable food which was devoid of vegetables and lacked nutritional value appropriate to his condition aggravated his condition. Moreover, he has been subjected to punitive measures and stifling psychological pressure.


In mid-September 2021, Mr. Mushaima was offered an alternative sentence by a delegation from the Ministry of Interior. This deal proposed his release on the same day, but it came with numerous conditions and restrictions, primarily requiring him to remain silent about the Bahraini government after his release. Mr. Mushaima refused the offer, emphasizing his right to unconditional freedom. His treatment worsened immediately after his refusal, and authorities denied him the right to make phone and video calls and gradually stopped his medical follow-ups. He was finally allowed to make phone calls after a year of deprivation.


Furthermore, Mr. Mushaima has complained of provocation in the center, with an argument breaking out between him and the police in March 2022. Mr. Mushaima has remained at the center in order to monitor his medical status. However, his extended stay there has been used as an excuse to isolate him after he refused alternative sentencing rather than to provide him with the medical care he needs, as he has been denied his right to call his family. Mr. Mushaima has been demanding to return to Jau Prison, describing his stay at the medical center as ‘solitary confinement”.


Between October and November 2022, his family held daily sit-ins in front of the Kanoo Medical Center, requesting Mr. Mushaima’s transfer to a dentist after 10 months of suffering from broken teeth. On 22 November 2022, the Bahraini police arrested some of Mr. Mushaima’s family members during their sit-in. He was only taken to a dentist in December 2022.


Mr. Mushaima is also denied treatment for knee pain and access to specialists for his different chronic diseases. Members from the Ministry of Interior periodically visit him and promise him that things will improve. Additionally, on 28 November 2022, Mr. Mushaima was visited by a committee from the NIHR at Kanoo Medical Center. The NIHR later tweeted that they listened to his health status request as well as his rights as an inmate. However, his situation has not improved, and no specialist has visited him.


Since his transfer to the Kanoo Medical Center in 2021, Mr. Mushaima has been deprived of leaving his room, despite repeated requests to allow him to exercise. From September 2023, he has been allowed to leave his room twice a week to exercise and access the sunlight, however, for a very short duration (30 minutes each day), which is insufficient. Also, Mr. Mushaima is currently prevented from seeing and talking to the prominent detained human rights defender Dr. AbdulJalil AlSingace, who is also detained in the same section in the Kanoo Medical Center, with both of them currently being isolated and prohibited from meeting other inmates.


On 15 November 2023, Mr. Mushaima’s diabetes medications were changed due to the adverse effects on his kidneys, and his new medications are causing him to have unstable blood sugar levels, according to his doctor. Despite his unstable blood sugar levels, he has not been provided with an insulin pump or another medical device to regulate his insulin levels.


On 16 November 2023, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) adopted an opinion on four elderly Bahraini opposition leaders, including Mr. Mushaima, determining their detention to be arbitrary. The WGAD urged Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release all four opposition figures, conduct a comprehensive and independent investigation into the violations of their rights, and hold the perpetrators accountable.


On 30 November 2023, Mr. Mushaima’s doctor at the Kanoo Medical Center indicated that his kidneys are significantly damaged and that he might soon need dialysis. When the detained opposition figure insisted on knowing the details of the damage, the doctor told him that they could not disclose this information without permission from the Ministry of Interior. His family is highly concerned about his declining health and the lack of information he has been provided about his diagnosis and health crisis.


In 2023, Mr. Mushaima was forced to wait for months to be seen by a nephrologist and was denied treatment for hearing loss in his right ear. He has also not been referred to a neurologist to check tremors in his hands.

On 25 and 28 March 2024, Mr. Mushaima was transferred to the emergency room due to severe knee pain that made him unable to move or sleep. He was given pain-relieving injections after an X-ray examination. The center administration refused to inform him of the X-ray results and then returned him to isolation in the Kanoo Medical Center.


On 2 April 2024, after two weeks of suffering from severe knee pain without receiving the necessary treatment, which was only partially alleviated by painkillers with limited effectiveness, the general physician at the center confirmed to Mr. Mushaima that his referral to a specialist physician for the required treatment depends on an order from the Ministry of Interior. Mr. Mushaima’s family made numerous calls to the Jau Prison administration demanding treatment but to no avail. They also visited the specialist doctor who had treated him more than a year ago and found that he was available; however, he could not provide the treatment without a request and permission from the Ministry of Interior.


The medical neglect policy practiced against Mr. Mushaima is still ongoing, despite his deteriorating health condition. Recently, on 26 April 2024, he developed new symptoms, including sudden significant swelling in his legs and feet, along with persistent severe pain. Consequently, he was transferred to a non-specialist physician, who told him to reduce his water intake and elevate his foot as much as possible until a nephrologist could diagnose him. Despite this health setback, he hasn’t been seen by a specialist or given any medications other than painkillers.


Mr. Mushaima still suffers from medical neglect for his knee, teeth, and kidney issues, in addition to ongoing neglect for his chronic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart muscle problems. Moreover, he is still prevented from undergoing regular Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans, which he requires every six months since he is in cancer remission. Furthermore, he is still denied access to the results of the medical tests and images he has undergone.


Opposition leader Mr. Hasan Mushaima’s warrantless arrest, torture, enforced disappearances, solitary confinements, deprivation of contact with his family, religious-based insults, unfair trial, reprisal, isolation, and medical negligence all constitute clear violations of the Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which Bahrain is a party. Moreover, the violations he faced during his imprisonment, particularly medical negligence, constitute a breach 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 (ADHRB) calls on the Bahraini authorities to respond to the request of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention opinion, by immediately and unconditionally releasing Mr. Mushaima, who was arbitrarily detained due to his peaceful activism, and all other political prisoners. ADHRB also urges the Bahraini government to investigate allegations of arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearances, solitary confinements, deprivation of contact with his family, religious-based insults, reprisal, isolation, and medical negligence and hold perpetrators accountable. ADHRB further calls on the Bahraini government to compensate Mushaima for the violations he suffered, including serious medical negligence. ADHRB warns of Mr. Mushaima’s seriously deteriorating health condition resulting from years of medical neglect and urges the Kanoo Medical Center administration to end his isolation and urgently provide him with appropriate and necessary medical care, holding it responsible for any further deterioration in his health. Finally, ADHRB calls on the international community to further advocate for Mr. Mushaima’s immediate and unconditional release and to call for his urgent provision of appropriate and necessary medical care.