The Ombudsman Office clarifies facts about allrgations raised on the enforced disappearance and the prevention of communication of an inmate

Jan 20, 2021

The Ombudsman Office confirms, in accordance with its professional and legal duty, it followed up, formally and professionally, on the issues raised about the inmate (Z.A.). The Office dealt with the requests received regarding the aforementioned inmate in accordance to its independent procedures.  During these requests, the Ombudsman Office investigated any allegations raised by the inmate or his family, as is the case for any inmate or  detainee, within a framework of professionalism and transparency.

The Ombudsman Office, taking into consideration of the privacy of the inmate and the family’s feelings, preferred to not publish any statements. Nevertheless, due to the aggravation of the inmate’s situation by some organizations and the spread of falsified information on various web and social media outlets, the Ombudsman Office would to clarify to the public and public opinion of the facts of its investigations conducted on the aforementioned inmate based on: the allegations of the inmate (including the statement of January 18, 2021); in response to the inquiries raised by one of the organizations; in addition to the referral of the case by the Ministry of Interior on January 18, 2021.

First:

On August 27, 2020, the Ombudsman Office investigated the complaint submitted by the wife of the aforementioned inmate in which she stated that his family had not received any phone calls from the inmate since July 10, 2020. The inmate’s wife also alleged that he was mistreated and prevented from reviving religious ceremonies. The Ombudsman Office conducted its investigation where it interviewed the inmate in his location at the Reform and Rehabilitation Center, hereinafter: the Center, in Jau on August 29, 2020, and requested the relevant administrative and health documents, it found that:

  • The aforementioned inmate began in mid-July 2020, to voluntarily refrain from contacting his family, in the context of a campaign launched by some inmates at that time to refuse to use their right to call in protest against the administrative measures taken by the Center’s administration. These regulatory measures, which were in accordance to the Executive Regulation of the Reform and Rehabilitation Law, hereinafter: the regulation, were taken to prevent the transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection into the Center, including suspending regular visits and replacing them with virtual and phone communication, to protect the health and safety of inmates.
  • Regarding the inmate’s wife allegation of mistreatment, during the interview, the inmate stated that it was with regard to re-classifying the inmate from one building to another. The Center’s administration justified that the reclassification comes as a normal procedure applicable to any inmate and does not violate the law nor the regulation. The Ombudsman Office reviewed the inmate’s administrative documents which showed that he was reclassified to another building and in fact it was in accordance to the law and regulation.
  • Concerning the allegations of deprivation from practicing religious ceremonies, the Center’s administration stated that the practice of religious ceremonies for the inmate, and all the other inmates, is guaranteed and facilitated to ensure the continuation of the practice of their religious rituals in according to the regulations of the Center and the current precautionary measures taken to combat the spread of the Coronavirus among the inmates.
  •  At the same time, the Ombudsman was informed of the circumstances that accompanied the crime of attempted murder of a policeman inside the Reform and Rehabilitation Center on August 29, 2020, which the Public Prosecution is currently investigating. In the aforementioned investigation, the testimony of the witnesses before the Public Prosecution accused the aforementioned inmate (Z.A.) in provoking another inmate to commit a crime. The offender made a sharp tool with which he attacked the policeman while he was carrying out his usual duties of inspecting and checking on inmates inside the "ward." The offender stabbed the policeman (the victim) several times in the neck, face and different places of his body, intending to kill him. Due to the attack, the policemen (the victim) faced a number of severe injuries that he is still treating to this day. During the Ombudsman Office's interview with the aforementioned inmate, he alleged that he was physically assaulted in a vehicle during his return from the Public Prosecution. The inmate did not have other allegation of assault occurring in his usual role or in solitary confinement. In the same context, the Ombudsman Office reviewed the documents of his transfer to the solitary confinement room, and verified that this transfer was a precautionary measure and in accordance with the administrative measures taken in accordance to the executive regulation. The inmate was then returned to his room after seven days; the investigation of the crime is still ongoing.

Second:

The Ombudsman Office conducted its investigation into the complaint submitted by the brother of the aforementioned inmate on December 29, 2020, in which he stated: “Contact with the inmate has been cut off for more than six months and we do not know anything about him and we request that he calls the family as his mother is in a critical psychological condition.” When the Ombudsman Office contacted the Center’s administration, it found that, after reviewing the inmate's communications record, it was reported that he had not made calls from mid-July 2020 up to December, 2020. The Center’s administration also added that it had tried more than once to convince the inmate to contact his family but he would refuse. The Ombudsman Office looked at a CCTV video on October 28, 2020, where a number of the Center’s administration officials were talking to the inmate convincing him to call but he refused to call and sign the form with that regard. The same situation occurred on December 27, 2020, which also came with the same outcome.

Third:

  • The Ombudsman received two  e-mails on January 4 and 6, 2021, from one of the international organizations, in which it mentioned some allegations and requests made by the family of the aforementioned inmate, including: request to be reassured of the safety of the inmate and confirming his location, inquiring about his transfer from one building to another, claiming that he is deprived of privacy when communicating and that the communications he makes are recorded, which annoys him, and recalling about the family not receiving any audio or visual communication from him for six months ago. The aforementioned organization also considered that this constitutes an “enforced disappearance” of the inmate. Therefore, on January 12, 2021, the Ombudsman Office met the inmate at 11:15 A.M. at its independent office in the Center. The inmate was interviewed and asked about the complaint received from the organization, and he mentioned his whereabouts within the Center (the building, ward, and the cell). He also added that “he does not know anything about this organization, and it is true with regards to the phone calls only, that his last call was made on July 10, 2020.” When asked about the reason for not having contacted since that date, he said: "I have one request, which is that I do not want to speak, I refuse to speak." When he was asked if there was anything he wanted to say, he said “no,” and then he signed the investigation report on the same day and time.
  • The Ombudsman Office looked at the inmate’s medical reports and found that he is having his right to health care, the same rights as the other inmates. The record shows that the inmate visited the Center’s clinic and met with doctors and specialists, in addition to getting the necessary medications. Furthermore, it was found that for the past couple of the month, the inmate visited the Center’s clinic six times, the latest visit was on January 14, 2021. Nevertheless, the inmate’s medical condition is being followed-up at external clinic for opticians at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, virtually due to the precautionary measures against COVID-19, on June 9, 2020, and a further appointment was scheduled for follow-up.

Fourth:

The Ombudsman followed up on the developments that occurred regarding the aforementioned inmate, and confirmed, by CCTV recording, that he made a phone call to his family on January 15, 2021, which also showed that the inmate got involved in an argument with another inmate at the Center during the call and the inmate ended the call. Three days later, on January 18, 2021, the Ombudsman Office looked at the CCTV recording which showed that he has conducted a phone call and fully used the allotted time without any interference in a room with privacy and no one was accompanying him.

In Conclusion:

Based on all of the above, the Ombudsman Office assures that all of the recent allegations regarding the condition of the inmate (Z.A.), including the allegations enforced disappearance and preventing him from communicating, are baseless allegations. The Ombudsman Office concluded that the inmate was exploited to launch a targeted campaign that manipulates human rights issues, which was due to his voluntary refusal to make a call from July 2020 to January 2021. Nonetheless, the other inmates have ended their protest in different lengths in order to deceive the public opinion on the gravity of the inmate’s situation and the fact he is subjected to “enforced disappearance,” which comes in contrary to the facts and without taking into consideration the substantive and credibility rules of publications.