Bahrain: 400 detained in recent weeks need to be accounted for

Bahrain urged to stop targeting protesters after two more deaths in custody

The Bahraini authorities must urgently reveal the whereabouts and legal status of more than 400 mostly Shi’a opposition activists detained in recent weeks, Amnesty International said today amid concerns about their safety after reports that at least three have died in custody.

On Saturday the security forces detained leading human rights defender ‘Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and his two sons-in-law in a raid on his daughter’s home where they were staying. He was assaulted before being taken away barefoot and denied access to his medication. Alkhawaja’s and his sons-in-law’s whereabouts remain unknown. One of Alkhawaja’s daughters has launched a hunger strike to demand her relatives’ release.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart said:

“We are increasingly concerned for the safety of these detainees, especially after reports of two further deaths in custody last Saturday.

“The Bahraini authorities must immediately reveal the detainees’ whereabouts, allow them access to their lawyers and families, and protect them against torture or other abuse.”

With two new deaths on Saturday, at least three detainees have now reportedly died in custody in suspicious circumstances since the beginning of the month.

According to Bahrain’s Interior Ministry, detainee Ali Isa Saqer, 31, died in hospital on 9 April after security forces intervened to prevent him causing “chaos” in prison. Two other detainees - Hassan Jassim Mohammed Makki, 39, and Zakaria Rashid Al-Ashiri, aged 40 - reportedly died in custody on 3 and 9 April respectively. The authorities have attributed both deaths to sickle-cell anaemia, an inherited blood disease.

Malcolm Smart added:

“The Bahraini authorities must ensure that these three deaths are independently investigated, promptly, fully and thoroughly.

“It is alarming when so many deaths occur in so short a period when the great majority of detainees are being held in secret locations and there is no known independent access to them.

“These are conditions ripe for torture and other serious abuses.”

On Monday, the Minister of Interior reportedly announced that 86 of those arrested in relation to the protests had been released after legal procedures were taken against them.

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