Bahraini rights groups seek more access to jails



Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) deputy secretary-general Abdullah Al Derazi told the Tribune the case brings to the fore the need to bring the country’s jail system “out of its own isolation.”


He said the government should not focus only on improving jail facilities but on ensuring that inmates have access to professionals like counsellors, psychologists, and independent rights monitoring groups.


“We can only speculate on the cause of the suicide, it could be depression or anything else. What we should learn from this incident is that the government should take steps in improving the environment inside the jails,” Al Derazi said.


He said jails in Bahrain are almost completely isolated on their own and visits by NGOs and welfare workers are largely restricted despite their appeals.


The BHRS, which has a “Prisons Monitoring Committee”, was the first human rights group to be accorded the right to visit the Jaw Prison freely on two occasions in late 2005.


But the visitations have been stopped, said Al Derazi as he reiterated the society’s appeal to continue the monitoring of the situation of prisoners and conditions inside the jails.


In early 2006, the BHRS completed a report on the Jaw Prison in which society cited complaints by some prisoners of maltreatment.


Al Derazi recalled that their report cited some prisoners were very depressed because their links to the outside world were restricted.


There were some 370 prisoners inside Jaw at the time they made the visit.
Al Derazi lamented that the very tight restrictions on access to the jails, especially the Jaw Prison, does not augur well for the country’s human rights record.


“We don’t have access to records. In cases like this (suicide), we practically have no way of verifying reports,” Al Derazi said.


“The jails should be open to requests for visits by NGOs and even by journalists like in other advanced countries,” he said.


Late last year, the BHRS had presented another request for an independent visit but Al Derazi said they had not received any response as yet from the authorities.


“We had proposed to the authorities a programme where the monitoring of jails can be done by an independent body. We also called their attention to the need to have prison programmes that will develop the inmates’ well-being but we have not heard from them since then,” he said.



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