Joint Letter to Bahrain King: Free 400-day hunger striker Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace
Posted August 13, 2022
Scholars at Risk joins 14 organizations in calling Bahraini authorities to release Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace as he reaches the 400th day of his hunger strike.
King of Bahrain, Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa
13 August 2022
We, the undersigned, are writing to you concerning Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, an academic, activist and blogger imprisoned in Bahrain whose health is declining rapidly. We respectfully urge you to secure Al-Singace’s immediate and unconditional release, and in the meantime, ensure he receives proper medical care, is protected from torture and other ill-treatment, and that his academic work is transferred to his family.
Abduljalil Al-Singace, 60, is serving a life sentence for his role in peaceful protests calling for democratic reform in Bahrain in 2011. He has been imprisoned for almost 12 years solely for exercising his human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Al-Singace has been on hunger strike since 8 July 2021 and has now exceeded 400 days without solid food. We are deeply concerned by the current state of his health as his blood sugar has reached an extremely low level. We are especially concerned that in flagrant disregard of his physicians’ orders, the delivery of multiple essential prescribed medicines has either been delayed or denied, including pills necessary for his nervous system and bodily functions, and eye drops.
Al-Singace suffers from post-polio syndrome and multiple other health problems, including severe intermittent headaches, a prostate problem, arthritis in his shoulder joint, tremors, numbness, and diminished eyesight. In January 2022, his neurologist requested a CT scan, but the authorities have reportedly refused the request to have the procedure performed at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, run by the Health Ministry. Instead, the authorities insist that the test be conducted at the King Hamad Military Hospital. But he does not believe that he would receive adequate and timely healthcare at King Hamad Military Hospital, given that he has yet to be informed of the result of an MRI scan of his shoulder taken there in October 2021. This delay amounts to a deliberate failure to provide healthcare in line with Bahrain’s obligations under international law. Given his fragility and pre-existing health problems, this denial of healthcare puts his life at risk and may lead to irreversible damage. Therefore, we call on the government to immediately provide him with adequate healthcare.
Al-Singace’s hunger strike is in response to the prison authorities’ confiscation of his book on Bahraini dialects of Arabic that he spent four years researching and writing by hand.
On 18 July 2021, the authorities transferred him from Jau prison to the Kanoo Medical Centre, where he continues to be held. The same month, the Bahrain Ministry of Interior Ombudsman declared that his book could not be turned over to his family until a “legal decision” about its contents was made. In November 2021, a legal decision clarified the apolitical nature of the book, but government authorities have yet to return the book to his family. In March 2022, an Ombudsman representative visited Al-Singace, made baseless allegations about the book’s content and asked him to edit and resubmit the book for the authorities to review.
In July 2022, the UN Human Rights Committee repeated its call to the government of Bahrain to release Al-Singace along with other unjustly imprisoned human rights defenders including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Naji Fateel. Today, on 13 August, Al-Singace marks 12 years since his initial arrest in 2010. He was subsequently unjustly re-imprisoned after a brief hiatus of 21 days in early 2011 and was re-arrested on 17 March 2011 during the uprising. Today also marks the 401st day of Al-Singace’s hunger strike.
We call upon you to release Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace immediately and unconditionally. We also urge you to ensure he receives his medication without delay and has access to adequate healthcare, in compliance with medical ethics, including the principles of confidentiality, autonomy, and informed consent, and is protected from torture and other ill-treatment. We also call on you to ensure that his work is immediately handed over to his family.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Human Rights Watch
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
Scholars at Risk
Upon his return from London with his family, Dr. Al-Singace was arrested at the Bahrain International Airport on 13 August 2010. A detailed account of his torture allegations can be found in a report by Human Rights Watch published on 1 September 2010, which states:
“Al-Singace, who had spent the previous 15 days in incommunicado detention, told al-Buainain of having been handcuffed and blindfolded the entire time. Al-Singace said that his captors beat him on his fingers with a hard instrument, slapped him around, and pulled and twisted his nipples and ears with tongs.”
When the Arab spring erupted in Bahrain, government authorities released Al-Singace on 24 February 2011. However, he was soon rearrested 21 days later, on 17 March 2011. Since then, Al-Singace has remained in arbitrary detention.
In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry documented in a report that the police subjected Dr. Al-Singace to nightly beatings for two months while they held him in solitary confinement. The commission said that the authorities targeted his disability by confiscating his crutches, making him “stand on one leg for prolonged periods” and by pushing his crutch “into his genitals.” The commission also found that the authorities “threatened him with rape and made sexually explicit comments about his wife and his daughter.”