Bahrain says coronavirus among inmates, confirming rights groups' concerns

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo purportedly shows a prison in Bahrain.

Bahrain says a number of female detainees who are behind bars in the island country because of visa violations have tested positive for the COVID-19 disease.

“The necessary medical measures have been taken to treat those infected, and precautionary measures at the site have been strengthened,” Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior claimed in a Monday post on Twitter.

The ministry did not mention the detention facility.

Authorities in Manama have not previously reported coronavirus infections among detainees.

The small Persian Gulf Arab kingdom has for years been under pressure from rights advocates over the conditions of its prisons, which are plagued by hygiene problems, lack of medical care, and overcrowding leading to outbreaks of infections.

The inmates, including high-profile individuals, are routinely denied adequate medical care. That in addition to hampered access to legal representation.

The international calls are all aimed at securing the release of those wrongfully held behind bars.

In March, Manama released 1,486 prisoners in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, but the releases excluded opposition leaders, activists, journalists, and human rights defenders.

In early April, 20 international rights groups, including the Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch, called on the Bahraini regime to release opposition leaders, political activists and journalists amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Bahraini regime has been engaged in a heavy-handed crackdown since a popular uprising began in the kingdom back in 2011. Since then, it has detained thousands of activists, who are demanding that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

On Saturday, High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell criticized the ruling Al Khalifah regime for the “appalling condition” of human rights in the island country.

Borrell, whose comments came in response to a letter sent by members of the European Parliament regarding the dire situation of human rights in Bahrain, reiterated that all of the matters concerned should be discussed again during the next human rights dialogue slated for the end of autumn 2021.

Bahrain, home to some 1.5 million people, has recorded more than 85,700 COVID-19 cases with 338 deaths.

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