Ombudsman announces criteria, standards for visiting prisons

Nov 24, 2013

Manama, Sept. 25/ 2013 (BNA) - The Ombudsman, Mr Nawaf Mohammed Al Mouawda, today made public the criteria and standards to be followed to assess the treatment of and conditions for detainees in prisons and detention centres.

 “We have adopted the standards and criteria that will consolidate the professionalism of our tasks within a general framework that includes respect for human right, the consolidation of justice and rule of law and the strengthening of public trust,” Al Mouawda told the media at a press conference in Manama.

The standards and criteria, the first to be announced formally in the region, reflect the strides taken by Bahrain towards consolidating the principles and culture of respect for human rights

 “The standards and criteria modelled after international models are the essential reference to us in our tasks that include visiting prisons, juvenile care centres and detention centres to assess the legality of the detention and ensure that detainees are not subjected to torture or degrading treatment,” he said.

The Ombudsman needed two months to lay down the standards and criteria, he added.

 “We needed a longer period of time to study the major international standards and criteria. Teams from the Ombudsman’s office were dispatched to Britain where they had invaluable field experience. The UK embassy in Bahrain coordinated with us in this regard,” he said.

Throughout its work, the Ombudsman follows the relevant standards in the local laws and regulations and is also guided by international conventions and standards and by the experience of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons in the United Kingdom in inspecting prisons and places of detention, he added.

The visits are in line with the implementation of Recommendations 1717 and 1722, paragraph (d), issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

Standards adopted and followed by the Ombudsman under the section of treatment and conditions included respect, safety, legal use of force, physical conditions, prisoner or detainee care, prisoners or detainees are offered sufficient food and drink, prisoners or detainees are offered outside exercise, reading materials and the opportunity to have visits and calls, prisoner or detainee transportation, rehabilitation, learning and work and skills activities.

 

Standards under the section of individual rights included the legality of imprisonment or detention and prisoners or detainees who have difficulty communicating are provided for, legal rights, complaints and mother and child

Under the healthcare section, the standards were health services, patient care, prisoners or detainees receive prescribed medication and psychological health.

 “We will upgrade and modernise these standards and criteria as we move forward and we will reassess them periodically based on the experience we gain and on new ideas and international expertise,” Al Mouawda said.

The criteria and standards were used for the first time during a visit to the Rehabilitation and Correction (Jau Prison) on September 3-5, Mr Osama Ahmed Al Asfoor, the Deputy to the Ombudsman, said.

 “A team from the Ombudsman visited the Correction and Rehabilitation (Jau prison) for three days to assess the implementation of the criteria related to humane treatment, the conditions of the centres, the legal rights and guarantees of the detainees and the health care available,” he said.

The prison administration committed to provide all the necessary evidence, including documents, and to facilitate interviews with staff and detainees alike, which contributed significantly to help the visiting team perform their tasks with objectivity and professionalism, he added.

The team interviewed prisoners, detainees and staff on a number of issues to assess the implementation of major criteria and standards established by the Ombudsman.

The team also had access to documents, records, information and statistics that helped the members with drafting the report.

 

“Our report included a set of general recommendations and special healthcare recommendations,” Al Asfoor said.

The general recommendations included taking urgent action to address the problem of overcrowding in cells, separating detainees aged between 15 and 18 years old from the other categories and finding ways to treat them in a manner that meets their diverse needs, drafting rules that specify the methods and cases to search prisoners, and modifying the copies of regulations and instructions received by prisoners so as to clarify their rights and obligations clearly and adequately.

The report recommended setting up clear and specific procedures on complaints, grievances and the protection of complainants, installing surveillance cameras in all buildings, corridors and wards, according to the international standards in this regard, and drafting written rules to regulate telephones calls and increase the number of phone booths.

Other recommendations were maintaining and renovating the wards and facilities periodically, allocating classrooms to enable students to continue their education, with the adoption of incentives to encourage them to carry on with their learning, and allocating rehabilitation and productive classes to use the prisoners’ energies and skills.

The recommendations said that all prisoners should be included in the programmes, regardless of whether their terms are short or long and called for holding specialized training sessions for all staff to boost their aptitude to deal with prisoners.

The report also recommended increasing the number of staff dealing with prisoners and appointing social workers and taking the necessary measures to ensure the food supplier/caterer commitment to supply various varieties of foods according to the contract, taking into account the conditions of prisoners with special diets.

The special healthcare recommendations urged an increase in the number of doctors, nurses and administrative staff in the clinic, taking the necessary measures to raise the level of cleanliness in the clinic and ensuring the maintenance and periodic update of medical devices and equipment.

They also called for developing a mechanism to enable diabetic patients to receive insulin injections and extending the periods of work in the pharmacy to meet the needs of the clinic.