SALAM’s urgent appeal to international bodies for Jaw prison

Assaults against prisoners in Jaw prison in Bahrain continue and detainees are living a humanitarian disaster. This is the situation of thousands of prisoners in Jaw prison in Bahrain, who are experiencing grave systematic torture, degrading treatments, obstruction of communications and visits of prisoners’ families, prevention of treatments, and in some circumstances life-threatening injuries. SALAM has obtained numerous evidences and recent testimonies illustrating the continuously ill treatment and appalling conditions. Prisoners are forced to stay in confined places, with more restrictions on them during visits where they are unable to communicate with their families regularly and in a suitable environment, with many of the detainees complaining of degrading treatment and abuse directed towards them and their relatives during visits.
This is a contravention of Article 37 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of prisoners, which states that: 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. Under Article 54 of the same Standard, it is stated that: Officers of the institutions shall not, in their relations with the prisoners, use force except in self-defence or in cases of attempted escape, or active or passive physical resistance to an order based on law or regulations. Officers who have recourse to force must use no more than is strictly necessary and must report the incident immediately to the director of the institution. Joe Stork, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, affirmed the following: “Bahraini security forces have a track record of using excessive force, so it’s natural that families were worried by lack of contract with relatives in Jaw Prison prisoners’. The authorities should now determine whether overcrowded prison conditions contributed to the unrest and if the force used to quell it was proportionate.”
Bahrain SALAM for Human Rights considers the situation in Jaw Prison a humanitarian disaster affecting more than 3000 prisoners.  The prison administration have systematically used tear-gas and birdshot pellets, as well as physical and psychological violations against the prisoners since 10 March 2015, with over 1000 prisoners directly injured. The outbreak of violence started due to poor conditions and overcrowding in the prison. For example, Prison Building 4 alone has a capacity of 456 but currently contains 1020 prisoners.
According to witness testimonies that we have received firsthand from prisoners and their families, communications and visits were obstructed entirely for about 13 days after protests by prisoners, which was launched by prisoners because of restrictions and ill-treatment against them and their visiting family members at Jaw prison.
Prisoners were then transferred into the prison yard where they were left out in the open for 10 days before two large plastic tents were brought (310 prisoners were placed in one, 318 in the other, while the rest were transferred to another area) where most of them still remain almost two months later. Calls that lasted around one minute per prisoner were allowed after 15 days, reportedly accompanied by beatings, which is why many prisoners refused to take them. Visits were cancelled for a period of 1 month for some prisoners, and for up to 2 months for others.
Personal testimonies
SALAM has obtained corroborated testimonies from other prisoners who describe the exact details of the situation in Jaw Prison, and it is likely the situation is more grave than described especially with prisoners terrified to fully elaborate to their family members of the situation because of punishments dished out after family visits.
Zahra al-Kufi, one of the three visitors targeted by the prison administration on March 10, 2015, told Human Rights Watch that at least 10 visitors witnessed the incident between her and the prison officers. The incident led to her arrest, as well as her sister and sister’s husband. She said that they had missed an appointment to visit one of their relatives at ten in the morning, and that the prison staff refused schedule a new visit that is closer to the second scheduled visit. Zahra al-Kufi and her sister’s husband were released on the same day without charge, but her sister Layla is still in custody at the detention center in Isa Town, on charges of assaulting one of the prison officers.
Mehdi Al-Ikri, a prisoner in Jaw prison, who was barred from communicating with anyone from outside prison for 22 days, described part of the ordeal they went through. He described, with a tired voice, that the clothes he was wearing are the same since 10 March. Mr Al-Ikri described that new prison staff are continuously brought in to subjugate prisoners, constantly waking them up at night and forcing them to run then wallow in water poured on the ground, forced to crawl, and constantly beaten with sticks and batons.
Talib Ali, who was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment stated that police dogs had been brought to intimidate him, and he had received countless beatings which resulted in injuries all over his body, swelling in both his eyes, and bleeding from his neck. He had been held at the seclusion building when the events of 10th march had occurred, which is where he was taken from his cell, his hand and feet chained together, and then beaten with batons and metal rods as he was ordered to admit to inciting prisoners in building 1. He was also accused of teaching other prisoners taekwondo, as he was known to have experience in the sport. His condition then required him to be transferred to Salmaniya Medical Complex for treatment, where the treating physician was appalled by his condition. He stated that the officer in charge of his interrogation had attempted to kill him by trying to break his neck. He was then transferred to the tents where the guards singled him out in not allowing anyone to approach or speak to him. Any that did would be beaten.
Mohammed Al-Shamali, a 17 years old, who has been imprisoned since he was 14, was the one most spoken about amongst the prisoners due to his condition and his young age. He suffered a deep scalp laceration due to torture, which had to be repeatedly stitched up as guards would not stop beating him on his head. When the doctor was told to repeat the stitching for the fourth time, he said that the wound edges were too weak and had to limit treatment to covering the wound with gauze. He also stated that if they had waited another 10 minutes Al-Shamali would have been dead. Al-Shamali is among the prisoners who were taken to building 10, where he told his family he would be woken up every morning at 6am by having cold water poured on him, and then would be hung by his handcuffs from either the cell door or the ceiling fan. Afterwards, between 2pm and midnight he would receive several beatings. His mother stated that she had gone to General Secretariat of the Grievances and had told them about her son’s condition. They informed her that they had sent a delegation and had confirmed the severity of his condition but refused to give her any more information or take any action.
Naji Fateel, a human rights defender, is also one of the prisoners taken to building 10. Other prisoners report seeing guards drown him in a puddle of filth in the prison yard until he almost suffocated. He was also forced to drink from the same water. He was hung in what is known amongst prisoners as the “onion” position. He was also seen following torture sessions to be unable to walk without support. Naji was due to have iron rods removed from his leg a year after an injury suffered in 2012, but prison authorities continue to neglect his medical condition. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which issued a statement earlier in April: On March 24, she attempted to make a scheduled visit but said she was told by a member of prison staff that visits were “suspended indefinitely.”
Ali Sangoor, also held in building 10, has suffered from a dislocated hip due to guards forgetting him hanging for an extended period of time. When he was allowed a family visit on the 12th of April, he was carried in by 2 of his fellow prisoners as he could not walk or move on his own. Other families in visits at the same time were witnesses to this.
Ali Haroon was seen unable to walk on his own on the day of his visit (April 12th). His family stated that he had several broken ribs and bruises all over his body. He was forced to sit on just one side due to the injuries he suffered from. He also cried during the visit, stating that “they are going to kill us”.
Abbas Al-Sameea, who was handed a death sentence for allegedly killing 3 policemen was brought to his family visit on the 12th of April with a broken nose, his front teeth missing, and swollen gums that he stated prevented him from eating or drinking. He had placed tissues in his ear to stop its bleeding.
Other examples include prisoners such subject as Redha Malallah, who had a wound on his thigh that had festered and begun to smell badly due to prison authorities refusing to treat him. AbdAli Al-Singais received daily beatings on his head that were not stopped until he bled. Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji was repeatedly beaten on his eyes. Shaikh Mohammed Al-Mahfoodh, crippled due to polio, was also reportedly very weak due to repeated beatings and torture. Hassan Habib was forced to stand in front of all the other prisoners and shout “I am Hassan the dog who broke the window”. Jaffar Al-Kuwaiti suffered fractures to his arm. A prisoner whose family requested his name not be mentioned for safety reasons did not recognize his daughter when he was brought out to see his family. They stated that he seemed to not know where he was or why he had been brought to the visiting area.
The prison administration have opted to organise and segregate the prison based on prisoners’ religious beliefs, with many prisoners still sleeping in open tents with no air conditioning, whilst experiencing frequent beatings and insults against their religious and leading figures. Prisoners are forced to chant State loyalty slogans, whilst being spat on, forced to kiss prison staff’s shoes, and forced to run at night, as well as having water poured on the ground where prisoners are demanded to wallow in it. According to prisoners’ testimonies, the administration uses Jordanian forces to conduct torture and other vengeful practices.
Quotes from NGO
Independent organsiations such as Amnesty international, human rights watch and The Liberties and Human Rights Department (LHRD) in Al Wefaq National Islamic Society who have monitored and written reports regarding the ongoing violations of human rights by government security forces and officials.
The Amnesty report documented dozens of cases of detainees being beaten, deprived of sleep and adequate food, burnt with cigarettes, sexually assaulted, electrocuted including on the genitals and burnt with an iron in order to try and force them to “confess” to crimes. The Amnesty report added: “One such detainee told us he was struck with the claw of a hammer on several parts of his body. Another said he was raped by having a plastic pipe inserted into his anus.”
Additionally The Liberties and Human Rights Department (LHRD) in Al Wefaq National Islamic Society issued the following statement on 22nd March 2015:
“The Liberties and Human Rights Department (LHRD) in Al Wefaq National Islamic Society is receiving tens of complaints from families of inmates at the Jaw prison, each day.
Families’ concerns are growing as the prison’s administration has banned all phone-calls and visits to the prisoners since reports of an alarming police attack on the inmates circulated on the 10th of March 2015. Complainants said the prisoners have been subjected to torture, mistreatment and reprisal. Many have also sustained injuries from police attack with tear gas canisters and birdshot.
The prison’s administration has not been clear on the reason for which it has banned communication and visits to the inmates.
The families said their official complaints to the Ombudsman Office have been useless and demanded authorities to allow them to see their relatives in prison.
In the shadow of such circumstances, the LHRD expresses deep concern over the situation of the inmates at the Jaw prison and considers the ban of communication and visits a blatant violation to fundamental human rights ensured by the law, in addition to aforementioned abuses.
The Ombudsman Office, National Institute for Human Rights and General Inspector at the Ministry of Interior must all act to reveal what is happening inside the prison and reassure families of the safety of their sons and relatives. The abuses against the inmates must be immediately stopped”.
Bahrain SALAM for Human Rights urges the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights to intervene in this humanitarian crisis in Bahrain’s prisons, which affects thousands of prisoners’ lives a long with their families.
We recommend that:
1. Hire independent investigative committee to review Jaw Prison
2. To send in a Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to also visit jaw Prison.
3. Bring those responsible for the violations to justice.
4. End the use of Jordanian prison officers in jaw prison
5. Hire physicians and psychologists to help treat prisoners.