Violations Behind Bars Bahraini Prisoners of Conscience Speak Up

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Prepared by:

BRAVO – Bahrain

Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti Violence Organization

Date: 20th August 2012

About BRAVO:

BRAVO

Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti Violence Organization an NGO that treats survivors of torture.

Vision

BRAVO as an anti-violence NGO works with the aim of achieving compliance and adherence to human rights principles, values, and standards in Bahrain.

Mission

The mission of BRAVO is to end the practice of torture or violence and to support, without discrimination, those affected by torture, violence, and human rights violations, their families and communities wherever they are in Bahrain.

table of contents

 

Introduction

Background on Prisoners of Conscience in Bahrain

Prisoners Situation in Bahrain

Showcases

  1. Ali Al-Ghanmi

2.Younis Ashoori

  1. Mehdi AbuDeeb

Medical Comments by Dr.Fatima Hajji*

Local and International Reports on Bahrain’s Prisons

Conclusion

References

Introduction

Inspired by the Arab Spring, which started in Tunisia then Egypt, Bahrainis marked their calendar to start their Revolution on the 14th Feb 2011 against their dictatorship regime.  The call for the revolution was initiated by hopeful youth who were peacefully demanding serious reforms in the regime. Their quest for freedom was answered by a brutal crackdown that left many protesters killed, jailed, tortured, sacked and exiled.

In Bahrain, the violations of basic human rights are glaringly visible in the streets; civil journalists and activists have documented many of these cases. Yet, the most grievous violations are the ones hidden behind bars, and we know only little of their details.

This recent report will provide a brief introduction on the situation and violations against prisoners of conscience based on local and international reports along with interviews with families of prisoners to show-case the detailed violations.

Background on Prisoners of Conscience in Bahrain

Prisons in Bahrain are fully owned and operated by the state. 3 different security forces, including the National Security Agency (NSA), the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) and the Ministry of Interior (MoI), run them. Administration of prisons is overseen by a number of judicial authorities as well as the public prosecution.(3)

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights reported that 500 individuals were prisoners of conscience as of 22 November 2011 (1) making Bahrain the top country globally in political prisoners per capita. The number has increased to be almost 3,000 political prisoners as of August 2012 as a total number since 14Feb.

This claim is supported by legislation which prescribes a prison sentence for anyone who “calls in writing for overthrowing or changing the regime” (2) or “incites with the use of one of the publication methods to develop hatred of the ruling regime or show contempt towards it” (2)

During the periods 1975-1999 and 2007-2011 torture in prisons became widespread and systematic, leading to the deaths of up to 23 individuals.

The National Security Agency, Bahrain Defense Force, Ministry of Interior and the judiciary system “Ministry of Justice” are all run by the same family and close relatives of the King of Bahrain. This leads many human rights organizations to question the integrity of statements and reports issued by them claiming that human rights are not violated for those behind bars.

Prisoners Situation in Bahrain

There have been numerous reports on the grievous violations inside prisons. A number of prisoners were killed due to brutal torture while in prison since 14Feb 2011, below are the list of names:

1 Hasan Jasem Makki
2 Ali Isa Al-Saqer
3 Zakariya Rashid Hassan al-Ashiri Journalist
4 Kareem Fakhrawi Businessman and Political activist
5 Jaber Ebrahim Yousif Mohamed Alawiyat
6 Yousif Ahmed Muwali

Among those prisoners is Karim Fakhrawi, he was the founder and a board member of Al-Wasat, the country’s premier independent daily, he died in state custody a week after he was detained, after he had visited a police station on April 5 2011 to complaint that authorities were about to bulldoze his house.

Bahrain’s official news agency said on Twitter that Fakhrawi died of kidney failure. Photographs published online, however, showed a body identified as that of Fakhrawi with extensive cuts and bruises.(11)

It was later indicated by the (Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry) that he was tortured to death.

Families are worried about the perilous medical conditions of political prisoners because while many have outlived and survived the torture yet they are crippled with multiple injuries and with no medical attention.

Many families fear the consequences of speaking up to Human Rights Organizations about what is told to them by the political prisoners regarding these violations, because prison authorities reportedly punish those who speak up. For example, Ahmed Oun, a young boy who lost his eye due to police violence caught the attention of Human Rights Organizations. Subsequently, Zainab Al-Khawaja, a Bahraini Human Rights Defender, started a campaign to save Ahmed, and she then received reports that he had been punished whenever she spoke up about his case as a consequence. (12)

Showcases

BRAVO interviewed a number of families of prisoners of conscience who were informed in detail of the violations they were faced with on daily basis. The findings of the interviews were read to the families for confirmation and an approval from families was given to BRAVO to publish them.

 

  • Ali Al-Ghanmi

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Photo of Ali Al-Ghanmi

Background on Ali Al-Ghanmi:

Ali Jassim al-Ghanmi  (born c. 1987) is a former Bahraini policeman who came to public attention for leaving his post and joining protesters in February 2011 of the Bahraini uprising (2011–present). On 9 January 2012, he was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.(4)

Visit Details:

Day of the Interview: 4th July 2012

Time of Interview : 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM

Place of Visit :   Ali Al-Ghanmi’s Family House in Bani Jamra

Interviewee : 1. Ali Al-Ghanmi’s Mother

  1.   Aziz Al-Ghanmi (Brother)

Purpose of Visit: To document situation and violations against Ali Al-Ghanmi at Jaw Prison

Interview findings (As per what family was informed by Ali):

* It is summer in Bahrain and the temperature reaches to over 45 degrees Celsius while Ali Al-Ghanmi is in a prison cell with no functioning air-conditioner for the past 3 weeks. A number of cells in Jaw prison do not have air-conditioning and in some only hot air comes out. In some cells, prison guards opened the doors of some cells to allow air to come in yet they would not fix the air-conditioning. It is worth noting that the air-conditioning is centralized throughout the jail.

* Ali has a health condition that needs treatment yet he is denied medical attention. Ali has “Callus” also known as “Foot Corn” on his foot and has written multiple times to the prison manager to be taken to the hospital but his request has been declined multiple times.  Ali mentioned to his family that he will be needing surgery to remove the callus. Ali recorded the dates of all the letters he sent which were declined.

* Prisoners including Ali are still being verbally abused by the prison guards and police.

* Ali was not given clothes or shoes given by his visiting family yet cloths and shoes are not being provided to them from prison. He has two prison uniforms which he is allowed to wear only during family visits or when going to hospital. Ali has requested that he needs clothes and shoes but he was not given them. Ali’s mother takes shoes and clothes to him on every visit but these get declined. Ali’s mother begged that at least they sell the clothes and shoes in the prison market so Ali can have shoes that fit and proper clothes, but the prison wardens policemen this. Ali has one hour in a day to play football but even that, he cannot play without pain since he has not got shoes (as per his family’s confirmation).

* During the holy month of Ramadan Ali requested his family not to visit them for two main reasons;

  1. Ali is granted two visits per month and for each visit it is one hour in the morning at Jaw Prison, and Jaw prison requires a long journey to reach. During the month of Ramadan this will be very tiring and for Shia muslims traveling such distance during the day, they  will break their fast and will have to fast it after Ramadan. The family requested to shift the visits to nights after “iftar” (A practice which is being done in the service of others) yet it has been rejected.
  1. On the day of the visit, prisoners leave the prison ‘cells building’ in buses to be transferred to the ‘visits building’. Prisoners wait outside in the heat til the bus arrives to pick them up. Sometimes, they have to wait for a long time, other times the bus is already outside. During the Month of Ramadan, and while fasting, it is very tiring to stand in the scorching heat outside.

For those two reasons and not to tire the family, Ali requested his family not to visit since MOI is not being considerate for the Month of Ramadans “special” situation.

* Ali has told his family that there are prison cells equip to accommodate 6 prisoners but it is over packed and in some cells 7 or 8 prisoners are there and the extras sleep on the floor.

* Ali’s family highlighted that it is not fair that Ali is sentenced for 12 years for reasons related to freedom of speech and expression. He is accused of : 1. Inciting hatred for the regime, 2. Protesting in 11 different pro-democracy rallies and the Pearl Roundabout, 3. Inciting military officers, 4. Absenteeism from work, 5. Communicating with foreign media channels. The family confirmed that some of the protests he was accused of occurred when he was already in prison.

2.Younis Ashoori

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Photo of Younis Ashoori

Background Younis Ashoori:

60-year-old administrator of the Muharraq Maternity and Geriatrics Hospital Younis Ghuloom (Ashoori) is serving a three year sentence while suffering from chronic urinary stone recurrences which needs surgery, enlarged prostate, history of heart problems and a type of migraine which leaves him temporarily paralysed.

On March 20th, 2011, between home and work, Ashoori was reportedly kidnapped by masked men who came in 15 police cars. He was blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to an unknown location. His family searched for him at all police stations including the one in which he was detained (AlHidd police station), where his wife was told to report him as ‘missing’. Nobody knew anything about Ashoori until 18 days later where he was allowed to make a short wiretapped phone call to his wife to tell her not to talk to media or human rights activists because they promised to release him in “2 days”.(6) Yet he was sentenced to 3 years on a fabricated case.

Visit Details:

Day of the Visit :  9th July 2012

Time of Visit : 3:30 PM to 6:15 PM

Place of Visit : Younis Ashoori House in Muharraq-Bahrain

Interviewee : 1. Amina, Younis Ashoori’s wife

  1. Mohammed, Younis Ashoori’s son

Purpose : To document situation and violations against Younis Ashoori at Jaw Prison

Interview findings as told by Youni’s Family:

* It is summer in Bahrain and the temperature reaches to over 45 degrees Celsius while Younis Ashoori is in a prison cell with no functioning air-conditioner since the past 3 weeks.

* The family is not permitted to bring cloths for Younis. The family was allowed to bring in cloths and then they stopped allowing them. Now Younis has only winter cloths which is not very comfortable to wear in the high temperatures they live in and no working air conditioning.  

* The toilets are not flushing properly which is unsanitary and there is a fear that disease may spread among prisoners.

* Irregular phone calls. Younis is allowed two phone calls a week. One phone call is fixed by day and time and the other is upon availability. In some weeks he is forced to call  two consecutive days and his family will then not have any contact with him for almost a week til his next call. This makes the family very worried given his medical situation. The Family were told that the reason behind it is that the phone cabins are not working.

* Younis is in his 60s and carries a number of illnesses (kidney stones, irregular heartbeats, prostate and chronic migraines). Younis requires continuous medical attention yet he is not getting it in prison. The Family mentioned that Younis wrote many letters to the prison management to go to the hospital yet his requests were declined. The issue was raised to the court and after many efforts he was granted an appointment, yet the appointment is scheduled for December 2012!!!!! The family took the initiative to book an appointment in a private hospital and they paid for it, and sent a letter to the prison management asking them to just take Younis to the fully paid hospital but the family’s request got rejected.

* Medicine is not being given to him regularly and on its scheduled times. For his chronic migraines he is given the same medicine given to drug related prisoners. The only medicine the family is allowed to bring in is for the Kidney stones yet medicine is not enough for his condition, he needs monitoring.

* During the holy month of Ramadhan Younis has requested his family not to visit him because due to the long distance the family will have to break their fast (religious reference) adding to that , it will be very tiring for them.

*UPDATE: Younis Ashoori was released on August 6, 2012 following an arduous appeals process. After serving 17 months in prison, his sentence was reduced to one year and he was released on time served.(5)

3. Mehdi AbuDeeb

4“Photo of Mahdi Abudeeb”

Background Mahdi Abu Deeb:

Mahdi Isa Mahdi Abu Deeb, (born 30 December 1962) is the founder and leader of Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA), and Assistant Secretary-General of Arab Teachers’ Union. Due to his role in the 2011–2012 Bahraini uprising, he was arrested, allegedly tortured, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. (7)

Visit Details:

Day of the Visit : 13th July 2012

Time of Visit : 8:00 PM to 9:40 PM

Place of Visit : Mahdi Abudeeb House in Aaali, Bahrain

Interviewer : Ahlam Oun

Interviewee : 1. Mahdi Abudeeb’s wife

  1. Mayram Abudeeeb, Mahdi’s daughter

Purpose : To document situation and violations against Mahdi Abudeeb at Jaw Prison

Interview findings as told by Mahdi’s Family:

* Mahdi Abu Deeb requires medical treatments in his neck, shoulders, legs, thighs, and hips due to the severe torture he was subjected to while being arrested and during detention.  Mahdi was granted 3 Physical Therapy sessions per week at Salmaniya Hospital. Yet, he has not been taken to his physical therapy sessions as scheduled for the past three months. He was not taken to his appointments at the hospital for non-valid reasons such as “There is no car to take you” or “We are not in the mood”.

* Mahdi Abudeeb suffers from Triglyceride, blood pressure and diabetes and is in need of medicine on time as per the prescription. As per the prison policy, medicine is kept with prison guards and given to prisoners at a scheduled time. Yet, Mahdi does not get his medicine on time for example before or after eating, or before sleeping or when waking up.

* Mahdi was thrown from the 2nd floor of a building by police when he was arrested and was subjected to extensive torture which has caused him a lot of chronic pain in his neck, knee and back. He is taking physical therapy to treat what the police have caused him, his attending doctor has informed him that he will need a. A Medical Pillow for his neck , b. Toilet seat (since the toilets in prison are Arabic style not Western) for his knee. These are critical supplementaries for this physical therapy. Yet, the prison is not allowing these supports to be passed to him.

* The same issue (as above)  for his Dietary supplements which he needs for his stomach problems. When it was first prescribed by his doctor, the medicine was sent to prison but they passed it to him after a very long time. He receives it now, but the issue may recur when the stock finishes and they order medicine again from the hospital.

* Mahdi wrote his diaries and his plans for 3 books, those notebooks were confiscated since 28th Feb 2012 and he did not get them yet. The reason he was given by police was: “We are reviewing them.”. Mahdi has raised this point during his last court session pointing out that, 5 months is too long for them to review his notebooks.

* Mahdi wrote letters to his family since 20th June 2012 and the family did not receive those letters yet, they are still confiscated by prison police.

* In March 2012, masked men wearing commandos with their dogs bombarded into prison cells while prisoners are sleeping and pointed their guns at the prisoners. No reasons were given and Mahdi and his family confirmed that it is just to incite fear among prisoners.

* Prisoners spend time by creating gifts for their families by modeling soaps they buy from the prison. Prison guards bombarded into their prison ward and broke all their modeling accusing them of having a cell phone. They are not allowed to do crafts anymore in his wing.

* Inconsistence in scheduling of visits. Family are allowed 2 visits a month yet there are instances when the family calls for many consecutive days to book an appointment and no one picks up, or they are given very far out dates. For example, last month there was a visit on 20/06/2012 and the next date was 22/07/2012 which is almost a month. This keeps the family very worried about not seeing him for this long a period.

* During the holy month of Ramadan Mahdi has requested his family to visit him after (afternoon prayers) on the visiting times from 1 PM to 1:55 PM due to the long distance the family will have to break their fast (religious reference), yet they were informed that there will be no visits from 1 PM to 2 PM during Ramadan.

Medical Comments by Dr.Fatima Hajji*

* Dr.Fatima Hajji, a Rheumatology specialist, one of the founders of BRAVO and the Head of Training & Development team- BRAVO. She was one of 20 doctors in Bahrain who were arrested tortured & convicted for treating protestors in Bahrain.

Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners Adopted by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held at Geneva in 1955, and approved by the Economic and Social Council by its resolutions 663 C (XXIV) of 31 July 1957 and 2076 (LXII) of 13 May 1977

Medical services

  • At every institution there shall be available the services of at least one qualified medical officer who should have some knowledge of psychiatry. The medical services should be organized in close relationship to the general health administration of the community or nation. They shall include a psychiatric service for the diagnosis and, in proper cases, the treatment of states of mental abnormality.
  • Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals.
  • The services of a qualified dental officer shall be available to every prisoner.
  • The medical officer shall see and examine every prisoner as soon as possible after his admission and thereafter as necessary, with a view particularly to the discovery of physical or mental illness and the taking of all necessary measures; the segregation of prisoners suspected of infectious or contagious conditions; the noting of physical or mental defects which might hamper rehabilitation, and the determination of the physical capacity of every prisoner for work.
  • The medical officer shall have the care of the physical and mental health of the prisoners and should daily see all sick prisoners, all who complain of illness, and any prisoner to whom his attention is specially directed.
  • The medical officer shall report to the director whenever he considers that a prisoner’s physical or mental health has been or will be injuriously affected by continued imprisonment or by any condition of imprisonment.
  • The medical officer shall regularly inspect and advise the director upon:

( a ) The quantity, quality, preparation and service of food;

( b ) The hygiene and cleanliness of the institution and the prisoners;

( c ) The sanitation, heating, lighting and ventilation of the institution;

( d ) The suitability and cleanliness of the prisoners’ clothing and bedding;

( e ) The observance of the rules concerning physical education and ports, in cases where there is no technical personnel in charge of these activities.

Revising the medical issues related to Bahrain prisons we would conclude that medical problems will be categorized as follow:

  1. Chronic medical conditions that the imprisoned may suffer from
  2. Medical and mental health problems that might be complications of exposure to torture or mistreatment during detention
  3. Medical and mental health problems that might be related to prison environment, hygiene, or climate

It is not a right to the best possible health care. But it is a right to at least that level of health care that a civilized society would think necessary.

  • medical needs generally
  • mental health needs
  • dental needs
  • women’s health needs
  • youth health needs
  • needs of inmates with disabilities (9)

The prevalence of chronic conditions among inmates vary by age, but among 34 to 49 year old men and women in prison the leading medical conditions were:

1) Hypertension (24.7%)

2) Obesity (24.7)

3) Arthritis (23.1%)

4) Asthma (13.9%)

5) Hepatitis (12.9%)

Of the conditions we examined, cancer was reported by 3.1% of 34-49 year olds, and cervical cancer was reported by 6.3% of the women.

Adjusted Odds of Chronic Medical Conditions of Jail Inmates Compared With the General Population Hypertension 1.2, Diabetes 1.1, Heart attack 1.2, Asthma 1.3 Arthritis 1.6, Cancer, any kind 1.2, Cancer, cervix 5.2, Hepatitis 4.3 (10)

Local and International Reports on Bahrain’s Prisons

A number of reports have been issued addressing the continuous violations against prisoners in Bahrain. These reports were issued from local and international Human Rights Organizations and Media reports.

Sample of the Reports:

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

The current situation in Bahrain does not seem that it will settle anytime soon and the crackdown is continuing to be with the same brutality if not more.

The systematic violations against the prisoners of conscience will cause sever medical and physiological consequences that will shape the daily life of the Bahrainis involved.

We demand the Bahraini regime to stop all forms of violations against the people of the Bahrain and to show their commitment to international conventions that have been signed and ratified by the authorities in Bahrain, particularly those that ensure that the accused gets a fair trial and his/her human rights are respected.

We also call upon local and international concerned organizations to collaborate their efforts to help the Bahraini people against the brutality of the Bahraini regime and to help push the regime to release the Bahraini prisoners of conscience.

References

  1. Human Price of Freedom and Justice (Report). Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and Bahrain Human Rights Society. 22 November 2011.
  2. Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (Report). Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. 23 November 2011
  3. Prisons in Bahrain : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisons_in_Bahrain
  4. Ali Al-Ghanmi, A Praise of a Bahraini Police Officer  – Human Rights First –  http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2011/11/04/in-praise-of-a-bahraini-police-officer/
  5. Younis Ashoori, One of the Bahrain’s Forgotten Prisoners, Human Rights First – http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2012/03/23/younis-ashoori-one-of-bahrain’s-forgotten-prisoners/
  6. Urgent Appeal: Maternity Admin Mr. Younis Ashoori: Health at Risk |  http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/5095
  7. Mehdi Ab Deeb – Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahdi_Abu_Deeb
  8. Torture in Bahrain – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torture_in_Bahrain
  9. Medical Care Neglect in California Jails & Prisons California Civil Rights Lawyers
  10. Chronic Medical Diseases Among Jail and Prison Inmates, By Ingrid A. Bingswanger, MD, MPH, Published: 10/25/2010, Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.
  11. Karim Fakhrawi – Committee to Project Journalist , http://cpj.org/killed/2011/karim-fakhrawi.php
  12. Ahmed Oun , Eye4Freedom Campaign – Bahrain http://www.eye4freedom.org/ahmed-aoun/