Minister of Justice

The Bahraini Ministry of Justice Responds to BHRM’s Queries about
the Alleged Torture and Ill-treatment
of the Detainees

On 9, 15 and 16 November 2010, Amnesty International (AI) issued three public statements on the state of human rights in Bahrain. In these statements, AI raised many questions and expressed deep concerns regarding a number of issues including the subjection of some detainees to torture and ill - treatment, and denial of adequate access to their lawyers and families. Due to the significance of these allegations, Bahrain Human Rights Monitor (BHRM) wrote to His Excellency the Minister of Justice on 19 November 2010, requesting some clarifications on the matter. On 19 December, the Ministry of Justice responded as follows:-

The trial judge ordered in the opening session that the detainees should be moved to a prison under the control of the Ministry of Interior, and to be allowed to meet with their lawyers for longer periods of time. The judge also ordered that the defence lawyers should be given copy of the file. Were the judge’s orders implemented? If not, why?

In response to the judge’s decision issued at the session held on 28 October 2010, the detainees were moved to a different section within the Dry-Dock Prison, which is not supervised by the National Security Apparatus. Additionally,

the lawyers were allowed to visit the detainees on specific dates in November. Subsequently, 18 lawyers managed to do so on the dates set aside, which were the 4th, 14th, 21st, 22nd, and 26th respectively; and on Friday 26 November 2010, the day following the last session, six lawyers visited their clients.

With regards to access to the lawyers by the detainees, how many times did they meet between 28 October and 11 November 2010?

The lawyers managed only one visit to the detainees in the stated period and that was on 4 November 2010.

How many times were the detainees allowed to see their families, and how long did their visits last?

Prior to 24 November 2010, the visits by the families to each detainee ranged between seven to nine visits. The overall total of visits to all the detainees is 182.

Can you tell us about the services inside the prison, including medical, food and contact with the outside world through the newspapers and TV?

The detainees are provided with a variety of meals, and they enjoy the rights to read the newspapers, watch TV, and receive books from outside the prison. They also enjoy daily periods of exercise, and receive due medical care, whenever deemed necessary, all in accordance with the prison’s rules and regulations.

In the first and second sessions, the detainees complained to the trial judge that they were subjected to torture between the first and second sessions, in spite of their previous complaint to the Court. Did the Court take any legal actions regarding these torture allegations? If so, what were they?

Following the allegations of torture by the detainees , the Court ordered the referral of Salman Naji Salman and Abdel Amir Al Aradi to a forensic physician, and of Hassan Hamad Saleh Al Haddad to an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist .

On 16 November 2010, Mr. Malcolm Smart, the Director of the Middle East Program at AI, called on the Bahraini Government to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations of torture. On the other hand, the lawyers demanded the referral of the detainees to independent medical examinations, rather than to the Forensic Department within the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Could it be possible for the Ministry of Health to form a special medical committee to investigate these allegations, similar to that of the Karzakkan Case in early 2010?

Scientifically and practically speaking, forensic medicine is the only technically qualified medium to determine the nature and the cause of injury, and the manner by which it was inflicted, and whether it conforms to any allegations made by the accused. The Diagnostic and Therapeutic Medicine can not rule conclusively in such matters. This should, in no way, be undermined by what was adopted by the court regarding the two cases of Jidhafs and Karzackan, when a committee consisting of doctors from the Ministry of Health was formed to examine the accused. The Public Prosecution voiced concerns towards the committee’s conclusion, as it contained gravely contradicting findings, which could only be attributed to the committee’s lack of scientific specialization, and its interference in matters beyond its mandate and medical expertise; Additionally, the committee relied on the pain displayed by the accused to determine that the injury occurred due to an assault instead of relying on the existence of visible traces of injury. Furthermore, the medical report, according to the Public Prosecution, could not reach a definite opinion on how the injuries were sustained, thus making the findings dependent on mere probabilities rather than certainties.

What are the legal assurances for the detainees during their detention?

The utmost legal guarantees that could safeguard the accused are the criminal and disciplinary liability prescribed by the law, in addition to the provision in the criminal procedure law, article 145, which stipulates that individuals from the Public Authorities, other than those permitted to inspect prisons, are not allowed to have any form of contact with the detainees, unless they have a written permission from the Public Prosecution Office .

With regard to the shaving of the detainee’s heads, why did that happen, and under which legal guidelines? Did the accused object to that, and saw it as an insult, as claimed by their lawyers?

With regard to this matter, we have been informed by the Ministry of Interior that the normal practice, under the prison’s laws and regulations, is that every detainee would have his head shaven before admission; and that the shaving process takes place every three weeks as a hygiene requirement, and also to ensure the safety of all detainees and prevent the spread of disease among them.