Bahrain: Hundreds of prisoners suffering from appalling conditions in Jaw Central Prison

Overcrowding, harsh punishments, and deprivation of contact with the outside world or complain
Bahrain Centre for human rights (BCHR) is following up with great concern the deterioration of the situation of prisoners detained in the Jaw Central Prison of Bahrain, including being subjected to mistreatment and arbitrary punishments, especially solitary confinement which are sometimes associated with physical abuse. Moreover, this includes the General poor conditions caused by overcrowding the prison of large numbers of convicts that exceed its capacity, where 17 prisoners being crammed in one cell that could not accommodate more than four beds (with 2-floors). Those prisoners are being kept in the cell for at least twenty hours a day where they have only one health facility for shower, toilet and washing, and the room itself is being used to eat, sleep, rest and worship.
One cell is gathering different ages, where a large number of prisoners held on security and political issues are adolescents and young people who are rounded up with people convicted in criminal cases of various nationalities and some with criminal records. Prisoners find considerable difficulty in obtaining a sufficient number of Quran, religious books associated with worship daily, and the biggest difficulty is the ability of getting any cultural or general books. Although daily newspapers provided by the prison administration are only those which support the Government's policies, these newspapers are subject to censorship, and often are blocked because they contain news or information about the situation outside the prison.
Add to all that the complete denial of access to daily news through television channels. Despite the availability of televisions in the places that prisoners go to for few hours a day, but it display movies only to make the prisoners in almost total blackout from what’s happening in the country or abroad. Since there is tight control to communicate with families and that is once a week for half an hour, as well as family visit with a very limited number of them twice a month, the prisoner cannot convey their suffering in prison via communication with family, and if so, it is liable to penalties of imprisonment in solitary confinement, mistreatment and sometimes physically abused.
Beginning of mistreatment starts since the first reception of the prisoner where they are humiliated, offended and threatened. However, the Proper or bad treatment later depends on those in charge of the Prisoners Affairs Department where many of them seem to be part of political or sectarian mobilization, especially against prisoners with cases of political background. The prison lacks an effective inspection system to detect the abuses carried out by those or by the prison administration. Prisoners also do not have the opportunity to speak to the top freely and safely, thereby reducing their ability to fully improve conditions or protesting mistreatment. Indeed, the only tool left for prisoners to improve their situation is the hunger strike where any prisoner on hunger strike is being treated so cruelly exposing any paddle to solitary confinement and mistreatment and sometimes being beaten as a warning to other prisoners, as was the case July 2010 when the prison used the riot police to stop the prisoners on hunger strike by attacking and injuring them [1].
Prisoners are subjected to degrading treatment each time they are taken outside the prison or to meet their relatives as well as upon return. Where they are forced to take off all their clothes and wearing wrapper only, then sit in a certain way on the grounds that such a procedure to "prevent the smuggling of narcotic substances" as they claim, while that in itself is reason enough for separating prisoners according to their quality and nature of the charges against them.
Hundreds of prisoners' sentenced provisions initial or final are in Jaw Central Prison, with hundreds of others in other prisons, such as the Dry Dock prison, Qurain Military Prison, Fort Prison in Manama and police stations in different regions. The latest information on the capacity of the prison [2] refers to the absorption of 816inmates while the number of prisoners in August 2010 was 1,300 prisoners [3].
Jaw Central Prison was notorious since its creation, in particular with regard to political prisoners, but because of international pressure, especially the International Committee of the Red Cross visits to the prison in the 1990s — Prison's conditions have been improved. However, prison conditions started to deteriorate again in four years with the increasing role of national security and the return of systematic torture, but the worst deterioration in prison conditions was after the Suppression of popular protest wave started widespread since Feb 14th, 2011.
The Bahrain Center for human rights (BCHR), has documented and issued reports over the past months on the repeated assaults on prisoners at Jaw, most recently in August 2011 with number of documented cases of torture of political prisoners there.
BCHR believes that the continued ill-treatment in the prison is the result of lack of regular monitoring from independent bodies, where no independent NGO was given permission to visit the central prison in Jaw since the only time in December 2005, when the Bahraini Human Rights Society BHRS visited the prison. The International Red Cross had its last visit a decade ago, and was not granted permission for another visit despite the repeated requests [4]. Despite the visit of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) -which was appointed by the king-, to the prison last August but the cosmetic changes that have taken place such as moving some of the guards and officers from their positions did not contribute to real change in the reality of ill-treatment that continues in the prison. It is noteworthy that Bahrain has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, because it requires that there be a standing committee to visit the prisons and that the visits could be sudden.
The Bahrain Center for human rights (BCHR), emphasizing the stipulated in 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 Centre urges upon the Bahraini authorities and all relevant prompt action to ensure the rights of detainees and prisoners in Bahrain, particularly in Jaw Central Prison, including:
1. Regular and sudden inspection of prisons and places of detention by representatives of the competent international organizations in addition to independent local organizations and authorities with qualified inspectors with experience and honest. Also, to reform the situation and 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. Separating prisoners according to the nature of their cases. According to article (63) of the "standard minimum rules": "The fulfilment of these principles requires individualization of treatment and for this purpose a flexible system of classifying prisoners in groups; it is therefore desirable that such groups should be distributed in separate institutions suitable for the treatment of each group.”
According to the article (67/a): "The purposes of classification shall be to separate from others those prisoners who, by reason of their criminal records or bad characters, are likely to exercise a bad influence;"
In the article (68): "So far as possible separate institutions or separate sections of an institution shall be used for the treatment of the different classes of prisoners."
In paragraph (2) of article (63) "These institutions need not provide the same degree of security for every group."
4. 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."
5. Providing prisoners with written information on the regulations applicable to them, and ensure their right to complain. It must be in accordance with article 36 of the "standard minimum rules": "Every prisoner shall be allowed to make a request or complaint, without censorship as to substance but in proper form, to the central prison administration, the judicial authority or other proper authorities through approved channels. .., every request or complaint shall be promptly dealt with and replied to without undue delay.".
6. To ensure the rights of prisoner regarding contact with the outside world with respect to access to his 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.
7. Providing books to prisoners pursuant to article 40 of the "standard minimum rules" states that "Every institution shall have a library for the use of all categories of prisoners, adequately stocked with both recreational and instructional books, and prisoners shall be encouraged to make full use of it." And allow prisoners to bring such books. As article (42): "every prisoner shall be allowed to satisfy the needs of his religious life .. and having in his possession the books of religious observance and instruction of his denomination.".
According to the article (77): "Provision shall be made for the further education of all prisoners capable of profiting thereby, including religious instruction in the countries where this is possible. The education of illiterates and young prisoners shall be compulsory and special attention shall be paid to it by the administration." and article (78): "ecreational and cultural activities shall be provided in all institutions for the benefit of the mental and physical health of prisoners."
8. To ensure that the eligibility 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): "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."
9. Every prison officer should report any violation or breach he is aware of. Where the principle (7) of the body of principles for the protection of all persons subjected to detention and imprisonment that: "Officials who have reason to believe that a violation of this Body of Principles has occurred or is about to occur shall report the matter to their superior authorities and, where necessary, to other appropriate authorities or organs vested with reviewing or remedial powers."
10. Bahrain must sign the Optional Protocol against Torture, which involved 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, Bahrain Centre for human rights (BCHR) urges Bahraini authorities and bodies concerned with human rights in Bahrain for the release of all prisoners who have been arrested or sentenced for reasons relating to the exercise of the freedoms and fundamental rights.