A UN communication sent to the Government of Bahrain, which was recently disclosed, included UN demands to the government to provide explanations for the deteriorating health condition of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, the highest Shiite cleric in Bahrain, who has been under house arrest for over a year.
(AhlulBayt News Agency) - A UN communication sent to the Government of Bahrain, which was recently disclosed, included UN demands to the government to provide explanations for the deteriorating health condition of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, the highest Shiite cleric in Bahrain, who has been under house arrest for over a year.
The communication, dated December 1, 2017, was signed by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
The UN representatives said that they would like to bring to the attention of the Government information "they have received concerning serious deterioration in health of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim and restrictions on his access to medical care to the point that his life is endangered, and his continuing house arrest."
They noted that in May 2017, Mr. Qassim was sentenced in absentia to a one-year suspended sentence on charges of money laundering, adding that these charges are directly related to the Shia religious practice of tithing called khums, in which money is given to clerics who redistribute the funds to religious, community, and charitable projects. "On 20 June 2016, Mr. Qassim was stripped of his Bahraini citizenship."
They further stated that Mr. Qassim has been under de facto house arrest since May 2017. While he has not been sentenced to house arrest, there is a heavy police presence, including military vehicles with their engines operating, outside of his home at all times. "Mr. Qassim has not attempted to leave his home in fear that he may be arrested or deported. No one, including doctors or relatives are allowed to enter his house without permission."
The UN representatives stressed that his personal doctors have been unable to visit him since June 21, 2016 and he has had restricted access to medications since 23 May 2017, adding that on 26 November 2017, he suffered a sudden relapse in his health.
Some of the sentences, which appear to contain details of Sheikh Qassim's health condition, were concealed with black stripes.
The communication mentioned that his family members went to Budaiya police station to inform them of the health condition and that he needed to be examined by a doctor immediately. The administration of the Budaiya police station claimed that they did not have the authority to make a decision on this matter and that they would ask permission from higher authorities. The family waited in the police station for two-and-a-half hours. During this period Mr. Qassim suffered further complications in his health which almost killed him.
"Thirty minutes later (three hours from the point at which Mr. Qassim's family first went to the police), a doctor was able to enter the house and examine him. The doctor decided that Mr. Qassim needed more medical attention and that he should be urgently transferred to the hospital and kept under constant medical observation."
"While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, we express grave concern at the deterioration in Mr. Qassim's health and the limitations on his ability to access medical treatment to the point that his life is endangered. We urge your Excellency's Government to take all necessary measures to guarantee his right not to be deprived arbitrarily of his liberty and therefore to release Mr. Qassim from de facto house arrest and allow him to access necessary medical treatment."
The UN officials recalled articles 6, 9, 14 and 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). These stress the rights to life, freedom of religion or belief as well as the right not be deprived arbitrarily of liberty ratified by the Kingdom of Bahrain on 20 September 2006. Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ratified by the Kingdom of Bahrain on 27 September 2007 that guarantees the universal right to health.
In view of the urgency of the matter, they said that they would appreciate a response on the initial steps taken by the Government to safeguard the rights of the abovementioned person in compliance with Bahrain's international human rights obligations and other relevant norms.
They also called on the government to provide any additional information and/or comment(s) they may have on the above-mentioned allegations, and provide reasons why limitations are imposed on Mr. Qassim with regard to his right to access medical care of his choice, a situation that threatens his health and life.
They further urged the government to provide information on the legal grounds for deprivation of liberty of Mr. Qassim and how these measures are compatible with international norms and standards as stated, inter alia, in the UDHR and the ICCPR.
The UN officials revealed their intention to publicly express their concerns in the near future as, in their view, the information upon which the press release will be based is sufficiently reliable to indicate a matter warranting immediate attention.
The United Nations bodies have not received any response to this communication from the Bahraini government to date.