Bahrain prisoners suspend hunger strike after 36 days: officials

Bahrain prisoners suspend hunger strike after 36 days: officials
2 min read
13 September, 2023
Bahraini rights groups said the hunger strike was only temporarily suspended after jail officials said they would improve the conditions of those held in prison.
Jau Prison, where the prisoners are held, holds a significant number of those detained during Arab Spring-era protests in 2011 [Getty]

Prisoners in Bahrain have "ended" a mass hunger strike over jail conditions, a government source told AFP, after activists warned the action could resume.

The hunger strike, which lasted 36 days and involved at least 800 inmates according to activists, was halted on Monday, days before a team from the UN Human Rights Office was due to visit.

The strike was "temporarily suspended" after an offer to improve conditions and as the health of some prisoners deteriorated, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said on Tuesday.

But a government source familiar with the situation said "inmates have ended their hunger strike", adding that the National Institute for Human Rights inspected the Jau prison.

The institute confirmed "that the inmates on hunger strike have decided to end it as of (Monday) after visiting hours were reorganised, the hours of open air access were increased, and the number of contacts that could be contacted was increased too", the source said late on Tuesday.

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The statement varies from the account by BIRD, which said some inmates were to be released from solitary confinement and healthcare provisions would be revised, as well as the other measures.

Dozens of people have held scattered protests almost daily in support of the prisoners, in echoes of the large-scale demonstrations that rocked the tiny but strategic island state in 2011.

Prisoners at the Jau prison, which holds dissidents detained when authorities crushed the 2011 protests, have been subjected to 23-hour cell confinement and restrictions on prayer, according to BIRD and the banned opposition.

The UN Human Rights Office has said it was "deeply concerned" about the hunger strike and will assess prison conditions at Bahrain's invitation.

Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa will also make an official visit this week to close ally the United States, whose navy's Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.