Bahrain Human Rights Society Released its
Report on the Women’s Prison

The Bahrain Human Rights Society launched its second report on 20 May 2009 about prison conditions in Bahrain. The report was prepared after a visit by the Society on 9 May 2009 to the (Centre of reform and rehabilitation for women - women’s prison) where a third of the inmates were met. The Society launched the first reports on the (Reform and Rehabilitation Centre in Jaw - the men’s prison) in December 2006.

The current report provides analysis of laws relating to prisons and the services provided at the women’s prison. It also highlights the views of the inmates about the situation within the prison, and compared it with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The report concluded with comprehensive recommendations. Despite the relative improvement in the conditions of inmates, but the report pointed to some limited violations in the prison, including: non-separation of inmates tried for civil suits from those convicted of criminal offenses; the absence of a permanent nurse and the lack of regular visits by doctors to check inmates and to ensure their physical and mental health; the lack of an interpreter to facilitate dealing with non-Bahraini inmates; the lack of programs to rehabilitate inmates; no separation of different categories of inmates, which constitutes a danger to the young; placing more than one inmate in one cell with up to ten inmates in one cell in some cases; the absence of attached bathrooms in the cells except those allocated for women with children and patients with infectious diseases. Some of the positive aspects mentioned in the report include: management of the prison never uses handcuff on inmates; and good treatment received by inmates from the prison staff; and reasonable hygienic cells.

The report contained 20 recommendations including: establishing a new prison for women; training of inmates to qualify for life after imprisonment; reviewing the decision to deport some girls who have families in Bahrain; enacting a new law for reform and rehabilitation instead of the current law; applying alternative penalties for minor offenses; introducing educational programs to combat literacy and teach Arabic or English; addressing the mental health of inmates; establishing a library equipped with books and journals in different languages; carrying out medical and psychiatric examination on inmates before admission to the prison and after release; having a resident nurse; educating inmates about their rights and providing leaflets in different languages; increasing recreational and educational activities; forming a national human rights commission, whose functions include the receipt of complaints and inspection of prisons on a regular and sudden basis; allowing civil society organizations and international organizations to carry out regular visits at any time and without prior notice to places of detention and imprisonment; accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture to prevent torture in places of detention; activation of bilateral agreements between Bahrain and other countries for the transfer of foreign women prisoners to their countries; ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.

It is noted that a number of inmates were detained because of violations of immigration laws, including non-renewal of residence. Such cases can be tackled through the imposition of fines and coordination with the relevant embassies. It was also noted that a large portion of inmates are migrant workers, which requires coordination between the Ministries of Interior and Labour to put strict conditions during recruitment including a pledge not to engage in criminal practices such as prostitution and organized crime. Violation of this pledge should result in a fine and/or immediate deportation, taking into account the family situation.

In terms of methodology, it could have been more useful if the prison visit lasted for more than one day because of the importance of the issue. Additionally, the portion of inmates met represents only 31% of the overall total and this does not reflect the situation of the inmates as a whole. For a comprehensive analysis, it is hoped that future reports on prisons would cover more than half of the inmates. It is also important to address the right of married female prisoners to marital cohabitation

The recommendations contained in the report need cooperation of several entities to put into effect. In addition to the Ministry of Interior, stakeholders include the legislature to enact new laws on prisons, which take into account Bahrain’s international obligations in the treatment of prisoners and detainees. The Ministry of Finance should also be involved in order to prioritize allocation of budget for prisons. The academics should be involved at the university level, especially departments of law and psychology, to conduct researches aiming at assessing the effects of detention and imprisonment on inmates’ lives and the lives of their families. Such researches will help in developing a curriculum suitable for the development of prisoners. There is need to establish a committee to consider the situation of prisons and alternative penalties to imprisonment such as community services, which applied in many other disciplines, especially (63.16% of the inmates are young and did not reach the age of 35), according to the report.

The Report is available only in Arabic through the following link: