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Ombudsman Investigation of Concerns Relating to Mr. Hasan Mushaima

OMBUDSMAN: Following concerns raised by Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs)  and widely expressed in social media about the conditions of detention and care of  Mr. Hassan Mushaima, the Ombudsman initiated an investigation into Mr. Mushaima’s:


  • Access to medical care and treatment.
  • Access to family visits.
  • Access to books and reading materials and the alleged inappropriate removal of books from Mr. Mushaima’s living accommodation.


The details of the Ombudsman investigation are as follows.


An Ombudsman investigator met with Mr. Mushaima at the Jau Rehabilitation Centre on 5 September 2018.  In line with normal practice, the investigator ensured that the arrangements for the meeting afforded Mr. Mushaima privacy.


Also in line with Ombudsman Office practice, the interview with Mr. Mushaima was recorded on CCTV.


The investigator also interviewed rehabilitation staff and examined records and healthcare records relevant to Mr. Mushaima.


1. Access to Medical Care


It had been alleged that Mr. Mushaima was being prevented from accessing adequate and appropriate medical care and, at his meeting with the Ombudsman investigator, Mr. Mushaima said that it was the case that he had not been refused permission to attend medical appointments.    The Ombudsman investigation independently established that it was the case that Mr. Mushaima had not been permitted to leave Jau Rehabilitation Centre to attend medical appointments in external hospitals.


The investigation established that rehabilitation centre policy requires all inmates leaving their residential buildings to attend the centre clinic and external hospital to be  handcuffed and that Mr. Mushaima had been refused permission to attend appointments because he refused to be handcuffed.  During his meeting with the Ombudsman investigator, Mr. Mushaima confirmed that he is not willing to be handcuffed in order to attend medical appointments.


In light of Mr. Mushaima’s age and medical history, the Ombudsman Office requested the rehabilitation centre administration to, on an exceptional basis, permit Mr. Mushaima to attend an outside hospital consultation for a health check-up without being handcuffed.  The rehabilitation centre administration responded cooperatively stating that, in all decisions about Mr. Mushaima, they were constantly reviewing their duty of care and that they would make the necessary arrangements to escort Mr. Mushaima to hospital, without requiring him to be handcuffed.


Mr. Mushaima subsequently confirmed to the Ombudsman investigator that he had attended his check- up at an external hospital, without being handcuffed.  He stated, however, that he is continuing to refuse to attend his medical appointments in the rehabilitation centre clinic because of the requirement for inmates leaving their residential buildings to be handcuffed. 


This was further discussed with the rehabilitation centre administration and assurances were received that, where an inmate refused to be handcuffed during escorts to other buildings, this  would not prevent the provision of required healthcare services where there was an urgent need or medical emergency.


2.  Access to Family Visits


It had been alleged that Mr. Mushaima was not being permitted to attend family visits.  At interview, Mr. Mushaima said that he is not permitted to attend family visits because he is not willing to be searched or handcuffed.   Mr. Mushaima also said that he previously used to have visits for four hours each month but is now only offered visits for two hours each month.  He said that he is not willing to attend any visits until he is again permitted to have four hours of visits each month.


Article no (17)  of the Bahrain prison law and its executive regulations, and the related ministerial decree no (131) of 2015, regarding the inmates/ detainees visit rights states that each inmate has the right to have either two visits in the month for a maximum of one hour each visit or one visit every week lasting half an hour.  The rehabilitation centre administration told the Ombudsman investigation that visit arrangements are now implemented in a way that is consistent with the regulations and is fair and equitable to all detainees and inmates.  It was pointed out that giving some inmates more favourable visit arrangements than others has caused difficulties in the past as this is not seen to be just. 


The Ombudsman investigator noted Mr. Mushaima’s concern that he is required to undergo a search before attending visits.  The Ombudsman has previously researched best international practice search arrangements and reviewed search procedures in Bahrain detention and rehabilitation centres.   The review showed Bahrain search documented procedures to be culturally sensitive, proportionate and respectful of human dignity.  


The prison administration stated that, in common with other jurisdictions, searches of inmates and their families attending visits are intended to ensure inmate, visitor and staff safety and prevent the transfer of illicit materials and substances. 






3.  Access to Books and Reading Materials


It had been alleged that Mr. Mushaima personal books and reading material had been taken from him. 


At interview, Mr. Mushaima told the Ombudsman investigator that he used to have many books in his cell, but that all of them had been confiscated and given back to his son.  The Ombudsman investigation found a  record of all of the books previously held in Mr. Mushaima’s cell.


The investigation confirmed that the Bahrain Rehabilitation Centre Regulations and Jau Rehabilitation Centre policy permit each inmate to have the Quran, the Bible or another sacred text as well as two other books in their cell at any one time.   These books can be regularly exchanged for new books and can be examined during cell searches.  The investigation further established that, following  a review of the rehabilitation centre operating and security arrangements, it was determined that the Prison Regulations relating to entitlements should be consistently applied to all inmates.  As a result,  books were removed from the cells of any inmates with more than the two permitted.  


Mr. Mushaima told the Ombudsman investigator that he does not accept that he should only be permitted to have two books in his cell.  He said that when he requests new books, he wants to also be permitted to retain the books that he already has.   The investigator explained that Mr. Mushaima’s request is in breach of the Rehabilitation Centre Regulations and Prison Rules. 


The investigator checked Mr. Mushaima’s records and confirmed that that there is no outstanding request for Mr. Mushaima to exchange current books for new books.  The rehabilitation centre assured the Ombudsman that it would cooperate with Mr. Mushaima to ensure that he can exchange his books as often as he wishes.


Based on the above findings, the Ombudsman Office completed its investigation into concerns relating to Mr. Mushaima.