Four UN experts called on the Bahraini regime 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.
The UN experts are Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Mr. Dainius Pûras, 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.
"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.
Sheikh Qassim was stripped of his Bahraini citizenship in June 2016 and sentenced in May 2017 on allegations 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 previously expressed deep concern at the "systematic harassment" of Bahrain's Shia population by the authorities and that Sheikh 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.