Urgent appeal to international human rights bodies

SALAM: Assaults against prisoners in Jaw prison in Bahrain continues and detainees are living a humanitarian disaster
Bahrain SALAM for Human Rights is following with great concern 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:
[P]risoners 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:
[O]fficers 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Regarding another aspect, the head of the Religious Freedoms unit from Bahrain Human Rights Observatory received verified complaints from prisoners of conscience and political prisoners of continuous sectarian insults directed at them since 10 March 2015. Such violations clearly violate Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain has signed and ratified, and incorporated through Law no. 56 for 2006. The provision states the following:
“It is prohibited by law any national, racial, religious or national hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”
Prisoner M.A (protected identity) from Jaw Prison said that he is “very fatigued, physically and psychologically, because of the continuous beatings”. He added the following:
“They strongly beat us on a daily basis, and in particular on our backs. We get harassed sexually, and they constantly direct the beatings on my chest because they know that I suffer from a heart condition. I cannot walk to the toilets, so they drag me there. The Jordanian officers beat me whilst they drag me and have attempted many times to sexually assault me.”
Regarding a related development, the family of opposition leader Hassan Mushaima, one of the 13 revolutionary figures, are very concerned about his life as he has reportedly been targeted more intensely since 10 March. Along with the insults directed at him by the prison administration, wrong and frightening information is given to him about the situation of his son, Ahmed. His whereabouts and health state remains unknown, along with many prisoners inside the prison.
The mother of Abbas Alsamea stated that her son “was tortured and his teeth smashed, and now he remains in solitary confinement”. She stated that the only form of contact she was allowed was a 3 minute call with her son. Abbas explained to his mother that he was one of the first targeted since the events unfolded, and was “tortured in various investigation rooms”. Abbas Alsamea added that he was beaten severely by civilians, with many of them attempting to “smash his head on the wall” which resulted in his teeth being smashed. He iterates that the torture he experienced was intended to “kill” him.
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 along with their families. In addition, the Commissioner is urged to conduct an international and independent inquiry to take action and hold those responsible accountable of the numerous and grave crimes.
Moreover, Bahrain SALAM for Human Rights calls on the International Red Cross to send an independent mission to provide health care for the prisoners, with prisoners barred from appropriate treatment and frightened from trying to obtain relevant remedies because of the potential of further abuse and torture.