Gulf Update: Bahrain Denying Prisoners Medical Attention, and more


Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Bahrain Institution for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) published a report that determined Bahrain is denying essential medical care to jailed high-profile activists, in violation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also known as the Mandela Rules). The organizations specifically discuss six detainees who are serving sentences for their roles in protesting the government and advocating for democracy: Abduljalil al-SingaceHassan MushaimaNaji FateelAli HajeeElyas al-Mulla; and Ahmad al-Arab. As reported to HRW and BIRD by some of the detainees and family members of detainees, “Prison authorities are arbitrarily denying the prisoners urgent medical care, refusing to refer them to specialists, failing to disclose medical examination results, and withholding medication as a form of punishment.”Among the medical issues the prisoners badly need treatment for are a range of injuries sustained from torture, heart conditions, blood complications, and diabetes.BIRD Advocacy Director Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said, “Without effective and independent oversight institutions promoting accountability for human rights violations, prisoners remain at risk of reprisals while perpetrators continue to act with impunity.

The Guardian released a report on October 10 finding that Qatari officials have failed to investigate thousands of migrant construction workers’ deaths, attributing the majority of the fatalities to “natural causes” despite strong evidence linking the deaths to unhealthy working conditions due to extreme heat. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for Qatar to “immediately adopt and enforce adequate restrictions on outdoor work to protect workers from potentially fatal heat-related risks.”A group of climatologists and cardiologists published research in the peer-reviewed journal Cardiology connecting the deaths of thousands of migrant workers from 2009-2017 to heat exposure. According to Dr. Dan Atar, one of the paper’s authors, hundreds of lives could have been saved if “effective heat protection measures had been implemented as part of occupational health and safety programs.”HRW is urging Qatar to “thoroughly and urgently investigate” the causes of migrant worker deaths now that research has shown a strong correlation between high temperatures and the migrant workers’ sudden and early deaths.According to death certificates issued in Qatar, the causes of death are often attributed to cardiac arrest, heart attack, respiratory failure, and “sickness.” When these deaths are categorized as “natural,” the families of the workers do not receive compensation under labor laws in Qatar.Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said, “The sudden and unexpected deaths of often young and healthy migrant workers in Qatar have gone uninvestigated by Qatari authorities, in apparent disregard for workers’ lives. Qatar cannot claim to uphold migrant workers’ rights as long as it ignores urgent and repeated calls for lifesaving reforms that protect workers from the heat.”In the lead-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the state says it is following 2016 guidelines on work-to-rest ratios proposed by the government’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the agency in charge of preparing the country to host the event. HRW says that these measures are inadequate to protect workers.  

Save the Children, a children’s advocacy and humanitarian group, has warned of an increase in cholera cases in northern Yemen. This year alone, more than 600,000 suspected cases of cholera have appeared in the country. Save the Children said that fuel shortages have driven up the price of food and consequently worsened the health crisis. Fuel prices are up more than 100 percent in the past 40 days as a result of the Yemeni government implementing customs duties in the city of Aden and fuel imports are down 60 percent.In 2017, Yemen experienced the worst cholera epidemic in the world, with more than one million citizens affected. In addition, more than 15 million Yemenis (53 percent of the population) are on the brink of starvation and conditions are continuing to deteriorate.
ON OUR RADAROctober 9 – Saudi Arabia has announced it will allow women to enlist in the armed forces. (AFP)
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Akbar Shahid Ahmed
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