The Establishment of the Commission
for the Rights of Prisoners and Detainees

In 2 September 2013, the King of Bahrain issued a Decree on the establishment of the Commission for the rights of Prisoners and Detainees. The purpose of this Commission is to monitor the conditions of the prisons and detention centres and prevent torture and ill- treatment.

Article 1 stipulates that the Commission should be independent, impartial, free and transparent when performing its duties. The Commission consists of 11 members, in addition to its chairman who must be the General Secretary of the ombudsman’s office in the Ministry of Interior. According to Article 2 of the Decree: three members should be nominated by the Chairman, four members by the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR), and four members by the Supreme Judiciary Council and the Attorney General . Nominated members should be renowned for their efficiency, honesty and impartiality and should be representative of all the varying elements and components of the Kingdom according to Article 2.

Article three outlined the scope of the Commission’s missions in five points: To visit inmates in prisons and detention centres in order to verify the conditions of their detention and ensure that they meet international standards, to conduct interviews and talk freely with inmates in order to listen and understand the nature of their problems, To notify the competent authorities of any cases of torture, harsh or inhumane treatment and finally to submit recommendations and suggestions on how best to improve the conditions of the detainees. The Decree also obliges the Commission to observe the relevant rules and procedures in its reports and recommendations.

The Justice Minister stated that the step of establishing the Commission took into consideration the UN adopted principles in the field of the prevention of torture and the relevant optional protocol OPCAT, and that it came as result of consultations with the inspectors of British prisons and the UN Committee against Torture.

The APT welcomed the decision to establish the Commission and called on Bahrain in a statement issued in Geneva on 16 September 2013, to guarantee that the new Commission would be enabled to perform its tasks independently and that it is composed of impartial and truly independent members who enjoy the trust of all sectors of the community.

The statement also indicated that the commission will only be effective if it can gain the trust of the authorities and the wider society. This requires that the commission should be composed of impartial and truly independent members whose selection is conducted via strict procedures. The statement called, in that respect, upon the authorities entrusted with the task of selecting the committee’s members to consult with the various active components of the community such as the independent civil society institutions and the opposition’s political societies.

The statement noted that the decree included many elements of OPCAT and hoped that such a step could bring Bahrain closer to the ratification of the Protocol to become the first GCC country that seriously prevents torture in its detention centres. Finally, APT called on Bahrain to arrange a new date for the visit of the special Rapporteur on Torture to Bahrain.

The British Ambassador to Bahrain, Iain Lindsay, welcomed the establishment of the Commission for the rights of Prisoners and Detainees and said in a statement on 22 September 2013, ‘The UK welcomes the commitment made by the Government of Bahrain during the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in 2012, to consider signing OPCAT’. He also added that ‘As noted by the Association for the Prevention of Torture in their statement on 16 September, this is a positive step by the Government of Bahrain. The establishment of the Prisoners and Detainees Commission brings Bahrain a step closer to ratifying OPCAT, the UN torture prevention treaty’. He continued by saying ‘with the creation of the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman, and the work of the revamped National Institute for Human Rights, I welcome the steps Bahrain is taking to prevent torture in places of detention. I urge these institutions to fulfil their important mandate and the Government to expedite its implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and those recommendations made under the Universal Periodic Review, which it accepted in full or in part.