On June 17, 2021, Hugues Bayet, a member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives, tabled a question in parliament concerning the recent death of Husain Barakat. In his question, Mr. Bayet asked Belgium’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sophie Wilmès, what actions had been taken by her office with regards to the current COVID-19 outbreak in Bahrain, and whether she had been informed of the tragic death of Husain Barakat.
Husain Barakat, aged 48, was a Bahraini political prisoner incarcerated in Bahrain’s notorious Jau Prison. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2018, following a mass trial of 138 defendant’s marked by numerous due process violations, and described by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) as an “arbitrary deprivation of liberty.” Mr. Barakat passed away on June 9, 2021, two weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus.
His death is a direct result of the authorities’ failure to handle the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide adequate medical care to prisoners. The overcrowded and unsanitary conditions of the prison, coupled with the negligent medical care provided by Bahrain security officials, have put the lives of inmates at risk—inmates who have been wrongfully imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression. Since the first active case of COVID-19 was recorded in Jau Prison on February 21, 2021, the situation has only worsened. The ongoing outbreak at the prison, the second this year, began on May 22 and has infected an estimated 60% of the 255 political prisoners housed at Building 12.
Hugues Bayet is a Belgian MP and member of the Socialist Party (PS), who was elected to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives in May 2019. He previously served as a Member of the European Parliament from 2014 to 2019.
Mr. Bayet’s question was tabled in parliament as follows: (translated from French)
Several times, I have had the occasion to interrogate you as well as your predecessor about the problematic human rights situation in Bahrain. In this regard, I would like, today, to bring your attention to a tragic event, namely the death of Husain Barakat who passed away on the 9 June 2021 due to COVID-19 complications. Husain Barakat was a Bahraini political prisoner and he was condemned to life in prison in a mass trial in 2018. Since then, he was detained in Jau Prison where he contracted COVID-19.
Jau Prison is notorious for its overpopulation and its insalubrity, both of which may have led to the contamination of Husain Barakat. In addition, the general medical negligence shown by authorities further put inmates’ lives at risk. The situation keeps deteriorating, political prisoners are denied communication with their families and the epidemic continues to spread in Jau Prison. These arbitrary detentions have long been denounced by various UN bodies.
- Have you been informed of the death of Husain Barakat? If so, what actions have you taken as the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs?
- Have your services contacted the Bahraini authorities regarding the COVID-19 outbreak in the country’s prisons?
- Has any action been taken by the international community regarding human rights violations in Bahrain?
The Minister of Foreign Affairs has yet to answer the question of MP Hugues Bayet.