1.25.2005

Human Rights group calls for inspecting jails

This appeared in yesterday's Gulf Daily News, published in Bahrain:

Rights group in appeal to inspect jails
By ROBERT SMITH

MANAMA: A HUMAN rights group has requested permission to conduct independent inspections of all prisons in the country. The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) is now waiting for a response from authorities, which have refused similar approaches in the past.
It submitted the request to the Interior Ministry after its members were not allowed to visit hunger-striking prisoners being held at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), in Adliya, last month.
If the society gets the go-ahead its findings will be included in its annual human rights report.
"We were not granted permission in 2003 or last year, but it is normal around the world for an independent body to inspect jails," said BHRS member Abdulla Alderazi.
"It also reflects well on the reputation of the country."
The BHRS wants to go inside the walls of Bahrain's prisons to see how conditions compare with international criteria set out by the United Nations.
Its request has now been passed from the Interior Ministry to the Public Prosecution.
Mr Alderazi said the failure to allow BHRS members to visit hunger-striking prisoners last month was a factor in the latest request.
The inmates were protesting because some had been held for up to nine months without being dealt with by the courts.
"What happened in Adliya is part of the reason," said Mr Alderazi.
"They ended their strike, but we wanted to see them. Just because their strike finished does not mean we don't want to go.
"I think they may let us go - especially because international human rights reports on Bahrain were not excellent last year compared to those in 2003, 2002 and 2001.
"If there is nothing to hide, they should let us go in."
However, Mr Alderazi said the purpose of jail visits was not only to inspect conditions of the prisoners.
The BHRS also wants to meet prison staff to discuss ways of avoiding unrest inside Bahrain's jails.
"We want to avoid demonstrations inside jails," said Mr Alderazi.
"We want to speak to people responsible for prisons and work with them so they better understand the psychology of inmates.
"Although they have committed crimes these prisoners are still human."
Meanwhile, a group of MPs is still waiting for permission to visit Jaw prison to investigate claims that inmates are being mistreated.
Parliament's Islamic Bloc submitted a request to parliament chairman Khalifa Al Dhahrani, who forwarded it to Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.
Bloc president MP Ali Al Samahiji says it could be the first of a series of visits to meet prisoners and discuss the conditions in which they are being held.
"We have still not been given permission," said Mr Al Samahiji, who is also vice-chairman of parliament's legislative and legal affairs committee.
"They have not said no, but we are still waiting to go and see what the problems are.
"Relatives of prisoners at Jaw have told us they are being mistreated, but we don't know the details.
"We want to meet the head of the prison."
Jaw prison was the scene of a major stand-off between inmates and police in August 2003 that lasted for over a week.
Hunger-striking prisoners barricaded themselves inside Block Four and threatened to torch it after complaining of bad treatment by jail authorities and poor facilities.

Quiz Time 38

Today's questions are:

Rumours say that a Ministry of Interior officer's son by the name of Talal was caught red-handed with drugs on him and was held in custody and then released on a BD500 bail over-night.

How come he wasn't subjected to the same inhumane treatment Ahmed (who wasn't caught with drugs on him) was subjected to ?

Why Talal is free and Ahmed is still in prison ?

How did Talal's father manage to get him out of there while Ahmed is still rotting in custody - more than eight months after his arrest ?

Why Talal was given access to a fair and just trial in a matter of a few days and Ahmed is still waiting to stand trial ?

What is the difference between Ahmed and Talal ?

Why is Talal and Talal's father and the whole of Talal's clan above the law ?

Can the Ministries of Torture and Injustice explain themselves or it is too much to ask ?