GENEVA (7 December 2017) – Four UN experts* have called on Bahrain to ensure the human rights of the country's most senior Shia leader, 76 year old Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, are fully respected.
“We welcome the news that the Government of Bahrain has finally allowed Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim to go to hospital to access the life-saving treatment he requires, but we are concerned that he remains under guard,” the experts said in a joint statement.
“We urge the authorities in Bahrain to allow Mr. Qassim to receive visitors freely, to ensure that medical staff can treat him without pressure of any kind, and to ensure that he can continue to access the medicines he needs after leaving hospital,” the experts said.
“As he recovers, he should be free to move around without restrictions and not be subject to de facto house arrest,” they added.
Mr. Qassim was stripped of his Bahraini citizenship in June 2016 and sentenced in May 2017 on charges of money laundering related to khums, a Shia religious practice of tithing. He has been under de facto house arrest for over six months and suffers from a number of health conditions.
He suffered a life-threatening health emergency on 26 November 2017. It took three hours for a doctor to be granted permission to enter the house to examine him and a week to transfer him to hospital on 3 December, despite the doctor's call for urgent hospital care.
The Special Rapporteurs noted that respecting all people's rights without discrimination based on religion or belief helped prevent conflict and violence.
UN experts have previously expressed deep concern at the “systematic harassment” of Bahrain's Shia population by the authorities and that Mr Qassim had his citizenship revoked without the opportunity to defend himself, rendering him at risk of deportation. In June 2017 they called on Bahrain to end its worsening human rights clampdown.
(*) The UN experts: Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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