Abduljalil Alsingace is a blogger and human rights defender who was arrested shortly after pro-reform protests erupted in Bahrain in February 2011. He was sentenced to life in prison in June 2011. An independent inquiry found that prison authorities had tortured him, and his family says he continues to be denied medical treatment.
Alsingace was among a number of high-profile government critics arrested as the government renewed its crackdown on dissent after pro-reform protests in February 2011. He was arrested on March 17, 2011, according to Al-Jazeera and the London-based Bahraini human rights organization Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.
On June 22, 2011, a military court sentenced Alsingace to life imprisonment for "plotting to topple the monarchy," according to the official Bahrain News Agency. In all, 21 bloggers, human rights activists, and members of the political opposition were found guilty on similar charges and handed lengthy sentences, the news agency reported.
On his blog, Al-Faseela (Sapling), Alsingace wrote critically about human rights violations, sectarian discrimination, and repression of the political opposition. He also monitored human rights for the Shia-dominated opposition Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy. He was first arrested on anti-state conspiracy charges in August 2010, according to The Guardian, as part of widespread reprisals against political dissidents, but was released in February 2011 as part of a government effort to appease the nascent protest movement, according to PEN America.
On September 4, 2012, the High Court of Appeal upheld Alsingace’s conviction and life sentence, along with those of his co-defendants, according to the BBC. On January 7, 2013, the Court of Cassation, the highest court in the country, also upheld the sentences.
During 2015 and 2016, Alsingace refused solid food for 313 days to protest the conditions at Jaw Prison, where he was held, according to the U.S.-based human rights group Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.
In November 2015, Alsingace was temporarily released to attend his mother’s funeral.
In 2016, a family member told CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of retribution, that Alsingace had not been receiving adequate medical care, including for injuries caused by torture.
According to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, Alsingace was "sexually molested with a finger thrust into his anus" and repeatedly beaten with fists and batons. One officer placed a pistol in his mouth and said, "I wish I could empty it in your head," it said. Security forces threatened to rape his daughter, the inquiry found. The commission was established by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in June 2011 to investigate the protest movement and subsequent crackdown, including allegations of abuse of prisoners. Its findings and recommendations, based on interviews with inmates, officials, witnesses, and human rights defenders, were officially endorsed by King Hamad in November 2011.
Since 2017, Alsingace has suffered from various ailments, including severe dehydration, vertigo, dizziness, chest pain, bone pain, slipped vertebrae, and torn shoulder muscles, for which he has received inadequate treatment, the family member told CPJ. On several occasions, Alsingace refused to go to the hospital in a prison uniform and so was denied medical care, the family member said. In 2021, he began a hunger strike after authorities confiscated research materials; the hunger strike has continued through 2023 and has included stints in a hospital.
In August 2022, CPJ signed a joint letter calling for freedom for Alsingace and raising concerns over his health problems, including post-polio syndrome, severe intermittent headaches, arthritis in his shoulder, numbness, tremors, poor eyesight, and prostate issues. The letter noted that the journalist’s doctor ordered a CT scan, but authorities had refused to let him receive treatment at the health ministry-run Salmaniya Medical Complex, where he believed he would get better treatment, and insisted that he go to the King Hamad military hospital. The journalist said that he had not received the result of an MRI scan taken at the military hospital in 2021.
According to a September 13, 2023 communication from the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and other U.N. experts to the government of Bahrain, Alsingace suspended family visits and phone calls on June 23, 2023, to protest medical neglect. He has been sustaining himself with multivitamin supplements, tea, water, and salts, leading to dangerously low blood sugar levels. On August 7, he declined physiotherapy due to the presence of an armed guard. Two days later, authorities allowed him to receive physiotherapy without a guard, but crucial treatments, such as an ultrasound, were reportedly omitted. As of August 14, Alsingace was unable to walk or exercise properly, and his health remained precarious.
In response, the government said an investigative unit had looked into the allegations of mistreatment but that Alsingace did not cooperate and it closed the case due to lack of evidence.
As of late 2023, Alsingace did not have any new court appearances, charges, convictions, or sentences. He has been held at Ebrahim Khalil Kando Community Medical Center since June 2021.
CPJ emailed the Bahrain Interior Ministry’s press office in late 2023 for comment on Alsingace and other Bahraini journalists in prison but did not receive a response.