Bahrain: Worsening Situation at the Central Prison (Jaw) in Absence of Monitoring Visits by Independent NGOs
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern about the ongoing reports of violations against those detained in the different detention centers in Bahrain, in particular the central prison (Jaw).
The BCHR recently reported on the reported torture of child prisoners at Jaw which was witnessed by the imprisoned human rights defender Nabeel Rajab (see report: http://virtualbahrain.net/en/node/6134 ) as well as the transfer of a prisoner (Ali Alsingace) to a solitary confinement at a time when he is in urgent need for medical treatment (read here: http://www.virtualbahrain.net/en/node/6159). These acts are extreme violations to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
The BCHR continues to receive near to daily reports of worsening treatment of prisoners, at a time when no independent monitoring body is able to gain access to the prison facilities. It is important to note here that the cases presented in this report are merely sample cases and do not cover the hundreds of cases currently happening in Bahrain.
Risks in regards to health
Photo: Mahdi Abudeeb
The BCHR received credible information that the imprisoned President of the Bahrain Teacher’s Society, Mahdi AbuDeeb, was given a contaminated bottle of water which was put amongst the bottles he bought from the prison canteen. The incident took place in May 2013 and it was reported by his family that his health started to deteriorate after that. AbuDeeb has filed a complaint against this incident to the prison administration but no investigation has been conducted. Following that, his lawyer filed another complaint with the executive judge as well as the public prosecution. AbuDeeb is serving a 5 years sentence for calling for a teachers strike in February and March 2011 in protest to the extremely violent crackdown on peaceful protesters during that period. Furthermore, on 6 June 2013 he was denied visitation rights for refusing to remove his medical shoes to the regular prison sandals. AbuDeeb wears the medical shoes as a health requirement due to the torture he was subjected to following to his arrest. (Read more on http://virtualbahrain.net/en/node/5492)
In another case, on 21 June, in a phone call to his family, the imprisoned political leader Hasan Mushaima told his family that the group of the 13 activists have ran out of hygiene and cleaning items as they have been deprived from purchasing these items from inside the prison or receiving them from their families for more than 4 months now, in response to their refusal to wear the prison uniform designated for criminal prisoners. (Read BCHR report on http://www.virtualbahrain.net/en/node/5740 )
Arbitrary solitary confinement
Photo: Ali Alsignace
According to the information received by the BCHR, Ali Alsingace continues to be held in solitary confinement as his family was turned away when they went to the central prison Jaw for their scheduled visit on 12 Jun 2013. The prison administration claimed that Ali refused to see them, (a claim which has been made in several cases for political prisoners in solitary confinement or those who are now in incommunicado detention). Up until the time of writing this report, Alsingace has not called his family. When Alsingace’s family protested outside Jaw prison against his solitary confinement, Mohammed Rashid AlHussaini promised to remove Alsingace from solitary that day and allow him to contact his family. This did not happen.
To add to this, the BCHR has received information about other prisoners who are believed to have been arbitrarily placed in solitary confinement, and who are being deprived from contact with their families without any clear reason, and in violation to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which requires in Article (32) “Punishment by close confinement .. shall never be inflicted unless the medical officer has examined the prisoner and certified in writing that he is fit to sustain it.” and article (37) “Prisoners shall be allowed under necessary supervision to communicate with their family and reputable friends at regular intervals, both by correspondence and by receiving visits.”
Some of those cases include:
Jassim Maki Madan, a former military personnel who is serving a two year sentence on charges of illegal gathering and inciting hatred against the regime. On 16 Jun 2013 his family was turned away after they arrived for their scheduled visit. No reason was given to them.
Mohamed Khamis Madan (18), an athlete serving a 3 year sentence on alleged charges of burning a police jeep. After the cancellation of his family visits and calls for several days, the prison administration told his family on 24 May that he is in solitary confinement. According to the latest information received by the BCHR, namely on 16 Jun 2013, he was still in solitary confinement.
Photo: Ali AlTaweel
Ali AlTaweel, who was sentenced to death, is still in solitary confinement since he was brought to Jaw prison in 29 Sep 2011. Concerns were raised earlier regarding his mental health after this long duration of solitary confinement. (Read BCHR Report on http://www.virtualbahrain.net/en/node/5642 )
According to Dr. Fatima Haji, “Solitary Confinement is considered to be a form of psychological torture when the period is longer than few weeks or continued indefinitely. It can worsen both short- & long-term psychological & physical problems or make it more likely to develop.”
Denial from contact with family
In addition, several families have been seriously concerned about the wellbeing of their imprisoned relatives after weeks of no phone calls and no visitations, and in absence of reasonable justification.
Photo: Kumail AlManami, with torture marks on his face, 2009
The family of Kumail AlManamai, imprisoned for life since 2009 on charges of alleged murder of a policeman (Read BCHR statement: http://virtualbahrain.net/en/node/3175), have been very concerned about his wellbeing as he has not contacted them in the past five weeks and they have been denied family visits since 16 May 2013. Although the family kept going to Jaw prison for the scheduled visits, they were not allowed able to see him. The prison administration alleged that Kumail is “refusing to see his family due a family dispute”. The family has repeatedly denied this and have stated this statement has made them further concerned in regards to Kumail’s well-being. Kumail AlManamai has spent most of his prison period isolated from the other prisoners since he was moved to Jaw prison in July 2010.
Photo: AbdulAziz AbdulRidha
On 13 June, the family of another prisoner, AbdulAziz AbdulRidha, imprisoned for life on charges of allegedly running over a policeman on 16 Mar 2011 (Read BCHR report on http://virtualbahrain.net/en/node/3983), has lost contact with him after he did not show up for the family visit scheduled visit on that day. The prison administration alleged that he “refused to see his family” without providing any details.
It’s feared that these prisoners may have been be subject to ill-treatment/torture given their current status of incommunicado detention which is when torture/ill-treatment tend to occur.
In a separate case, the 13 political and human rights activists who have been imprisoned for periods ranging from 5 years to life, including the leading human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, are still being deprived from rights to visitations and access to family, lawyers and consular officials since Feb 2013, for refusing to wear the prison uniform dedicated for criminal prisoners. (Read BCHR Report on http://www.virtualbahrain.net/en/node/5740)
Denial of access to adequate medical care
The BCHR continues to receive reports about prisoners suffering from denial of access to adequate medical care; whether for injuries sustained before or during arrest, chronic pain and health problems as a result of the torture they were subjected to, or pre-existing chronic diseases which have worsened during imprisonment due to inadequate medical care.
In one case, the family of Baqer AlShabani, who is serving a 3 year sentence for allegedly protesting and blocking the road near the Financial Harbor, told the BCHR that although AlShabani underwent a surgery at the hospital, he was not provided any of his prescribed medicines after the operation, which has cause his health to deteriorate. In addition, on 18 Jun 2013 he was reportedly subjected to an attack by some of the criminal prisoners poured hot tea on him and threatened him with death while prison guards watched and did not intervene. When AlShabani requested a visit to the prison clinic to get treatment for his injury he was reportedly told that “as a traitor he deserves death not treatment”. His family expressed concern for his health and wellbeing.
Photo: Ebrahim AlDemstani
Ebrahim AlDemstani, a senior nurse serving a 3 year prison sentence at Jaw since 2 Oct 2013 for his role in treating protesters in 2011, has been reportedly deprived from access to adequate medical care which he requires for the severe pain in his back. AlDemstani was reportedly subjected to severe torture following his first arrest in April 2011. As a result he suffered a fracture in his coccyx bone which he still requires treatment for. (Read more http://virtualbahrain.net/en/node/4726). On 19 Jun 2013, AlDemstani refused to attend a family visit as a form of protest against the denial of access to specialist doctor.
Talib Ali, a victim of torture, serving a 15 year prison sentence on alleged charges of forming a terrorist cell, has been deprived from access to adequate medical care he requires for a fracture in his lower jaw and dissolution in his right hand in addition to a decline in his hearing and eyesight. (read more on http://virtualbahrain.net/en/node/5563).
Hasan Matooq, a nurse serving a 3 year sentence since 24 March 2011 for taking photos of injured protesters, has also been denied access to adequate medical care. His family reported on 6 June that Matooq was suffering from deterioration in his health and was not allowed to see a doctor. When Matooq requested a visit to the prison clinic he was told “there was no chance of that happening”.
Photo: the injury of Abbas Malallah
Abbas Hasan Ali Malallah, serving a 15 year sentence on alleged charges of attempt to murder (Read background http://virtualbahrain.hopto.org/en/node/4159), has been in detention since 17 May 2011. He has a back injury resulting from being shot at with live bullet on 17 May 2011 at close range. and he was imprisoned following the injury. He has reportedly not been provided with medical care during his imprisonment for his injury. Furthermore, his family says that he has not been able to get healthy food at the prison that is proper for his health situation as a patient with ulcers in his stomach. In addition, he is not allowed to buy as many water bottles as he needs, as there is a limitation of 4 items per prisoner for the whole week.
The complaints about the unhealthy food and water is common in the information received by the BCHR regarding the prison, as well as the restriction on access to the prison store where prisoners can buy clean water.
Deprivation from right to early release
Article 349 of the “Criminal procedures law” stats that: “Any prisoner sentenced with deprivation of liberty may be conditionally released if he had spent in prison three-quarters of his sentence and has shown a trustworthy behavior while in prison, unless if his release would cause a threat to the public security, given that the duration he spend in prison is not less than nine months.” The conditional release should be based on recommendation of the prison administration and subject to the executive judge’s verdict.
While the above article is being regularly applied to criminal prisoners, political prisoners are expected to serve their full sentence with no reduction in their time evaluated based on good behavior.
The following names are only examples of current political prisoners who have served over three quarters of their sentences but are still kept in detention:
Photo: Left: Hasan Matooq - Left: Mahmood AbdulSaheb
- Hasan Matooq, a nurse serving a 3 year sentence since 24 March 2011 for taking photos of injured protesters. (Read more on http://virtualbahrain.net/en/node/5563).
- Mahmood AbdulSaheb, an artist and author serving a 3 year sentences since 15 Apr 2011 for joining protests (Read more on http://virtualbahrain.net/en/node/4956)
- Sayed Amjad Faisal Al-Alawi (21 years), a university student serving a 2 year prison sentence since Jan 2012 on charges related to the attacks on university in Mar 2011. (Read more on http://virtualbahrain.net/en/node/5276)
- Ali AlMolani, a handball player, and a university student, in detention since 16 Mar 2011 after getting arrested from a checkpoint for having a text message in his phone "They have attacked lulu". He is currently serving a 3 year prison sentence for "illegal gathering".
- Saleh Mahdi, a basketball player who is detained since March 2011, sentenced to 2.5 years in jail on charges of "illegal gathering".
- Jassim Mohamed Habib, in prison since 28 March 2011, sentenced to 3 years on alleged charges of “arson of a farm in Karzakan”.
Photo: Left: Ali AlMolani - Right: Saleh Mahdi
Other restrictions and harassments
According to credible information received by the BCHR, political prisoners in Bahrain are subjected to ongoing verbal insults and harassment by the prison guards. Prison cells which are equipped to accommodate 6 persons is currently accommodating up to 11 persons due to the increased number of convicted political detainees. They are forced to spend most of the 24 hours inside their cells. Families are having difficulties in scheduling visits due to the growing number of prisoners, and while a prisoner is eligible for a visit every 2 weeks, there are cases where they are denied visitations for up to 2 months due to the inadequacies of the administration.
Families of the imprisoned political leaders in the case known as the Bahrain13, complained about the continued practice of disconnecting phone calls while they are talking at the whims of the monitoring officering. The families have not been allowed to deliver any new clothes to their imprisoned relatives, and foreign magazines like “foreign policy” and “the economist” are not allowed reportedly because they “incite violence” according to what was said to one of the families by an officer.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) stresses on the importance of the international conventions concerning the protection of persons subjected to detention and imprisonment, in particular that "All persons under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be treated in a humane manner and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.". The BCHR urges the close allies of the Government of Bahrain and all relevant international institutions to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to ensure the rights of detainees and prisoners, particularly in Jaw Central Prison, including:
1. Regular and sudden inspection of prisons and places of detention by representatives of relevant international organizations in addition to independent local organizations and authorities with qualified inspectors who are independent and credible. Also, to reform the situation of the prisons and detention centers, to prosecute those involved in any violations and to punish or isolate delinquent administrative authorities.
2. Full compliance with article 31 of "the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners" issued by the United Nations, which stipulates that: "Corporal punishment, punishment by placing in a dark cell, and all cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments shall be completely prohibited as punishments for disciplinary offences." Basic principles for the treatment of prisoners recommends that: "Efforts addressed to the abolition of solitary confinement as a punishment, or to the restriction of its use, should be undertaken and encouraged." Under "standard minimum rules" in article 29 that "The following shall always be determined by the law or by the regulation of the competent administrative authority: ( a ) Conduct constituting a disciplinary offence; ( b ) The types and duration of punishment which may be inflicted; ( c ) The authority competent to impose such punishment." Article (30) States that "No prisoner shall be punished unless he has been informed of the offence alleged against him and given a proper opportunity of presenting his defence. The competent authority shall conduct a thorough examination of the case." Where article (33) states that "Instruments of restraint, such as handcuffs, chains, irons and strait-jackets, shall never be applied as a punishment."
3. Improve daily living conditions as article (60) of the "standard minimum rules" states that: "The regime of the institution should seek to minimize any differences between prison life and life at liberty which tend to lessen the responsibility of the prisoners or the respect due to their dignity as human beings." Article (10) provides that: "All accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, .. and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation."
4. To ensure the rights of prisoner regarding contact with the outside world with respect to access to their family and friends, as stipulated in article (37) of the "standard minimum rules". It must be in accordance with article (39) "Prisoners shall be kept informed regularly of the more important items of news by the reading of newspapers, periodicals or special institutional publications, by hearing wireless transmissions, by lectures or by any similar means as authorized or controlled by the administration.", and with the development of media it’s done through radio and television stations as well.
5. Improve the food and water provided to prisoners as stated in Article (20): (1) Every prisoner shall be provided by the administration at the usual hours with food of nutritional value adequate for health and strength, of wholesome quality and well prepared and served. (2) Drinking water shall be available to every prisoner whenever he needs it.
6. Provide ill and injured prisoners with the adequate medical care they need as provided in Article (22) “Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers.”
7. To ensure that the quality of prison staff, in accordance with article (46) of the "standard minimum rules," "the prison administration shall provide for the careful selection of every grade of the personnel, since it is on their integrity, humanity, professional capacity and personal suitability for the work that the proper administration of the institutions depends.” Article (50) states that "the director of an institution should be adequately qualified for his task by character, administrative ability, suitable training and experience. He shall devote his entire time to his official duties and shall not be appointed on a part-time basis."
8. Bahrain must sign and ratify the Optional Protocol against Torture, which ensures that there will be a standing committee to visit the prisons and that the visits could be sudden; a practical step that will prove the seriousness of Bahrain to improve prison conditions.
Finally, it is crucial to note that while the Bahrain Centre for human rights (BCHR) has made recommendations in regards to the situation of prisoners in Bahrain; this does not in any way sideline or nullify the main recommendation which is the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.