The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern over the reports of prisoners’ hunger strike at the Dry Dock detention center in protest against ongoing torture and ill-treatment in detention.
According to information received by BCHR, around 600 detainees at the dry dock detention center have entered a hunger strike starting from 20 August 2014 under the title “Stop Torture In Prison”. In a statement released by them, the prisoners stated that detainees are suffering different types of ill-treatment including beatings, insults, deprivation from using the toilets, being locked in their cells at all times, insulting their sect, torture, solitary confinement, and being forced to stand for long hours. They have also named the officers who are responsible for this ill-treatment and referenced an incident that took place on 9 August where eight detainees were reportedly beaten with batons under the supervision of Lieutenant Fahad AlKoohaji.
The families of detainees who have entered the hunger strike have expressed concern as their sons have stopped their regular phone calls since the start of the strike. According to information received by BCHR, some of those on hunger strike were beaten by the guards to force them to end it.
The detainees at the Dry Dock temporary detention center are either awaiting trial or on trial and awaiting a verdict in their case. The BCHR has received reports of overcrowded cells where as many as twenty-five detainees are being held in a cell meant to contain twelve. The strain that such a large number of inmates places on the detention center’s facilities is a cause of serious concern, and detainees report that the facilities are dangerously unsanitary. Children as young as fifteen years old are also being detained in this facility.
This hunger strike is not the first that the detainees have undertaken. Since 2010, prisoners at both the central Prison at Jaw and the temporary detention at Dry Dock have entered dozens of hunger strikes to demand improvement in the treatment they receive and the conditions of their imprisonment, without any improvement. On the contrary, the conditions continue to deteriorate as the number of detainees increases beyond the capacity of these prisons. The BCHR estimates at least 3,000 persons to be detained in Bahrain today. In June 2014, the BCHR published a report about these poor conditions at the detention centers. (Please refer to http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6917 )
The BCHR draws attention to the international conventions concerning the protection of persons subjected to detention and imprisonment, in particular that "all persons under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be treated in a humane manner and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person", the BCHR urges the Bahraini government and all relevant authorities to take prompt action to ensure the rights of detainees and prisoners in Bahrain, including:
- Immediately stop the act of torture and ill-treatment in all detention centers, and hold those found to be responsible accountable for this crime.
- Full compliance with article 31 of "the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners" issued by the United Nations, which stipulates that: "Corporal punishment, punishment by placing in a dark cell, and all cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments shall be completely prohibited as punishments for disciplinary offences."
- Regular and sudden inspection of prisons and places of detention by representatives of the competent international organizations in addition to independent local organizations and authorities with qualified inspectors who are both honest and experienced. Also, to reform prisoners’ situation while they are in detention, and to prosecute any administrative official or guard involved in human rights violations.
- Bahrain must sign the Optional Protocol against Torture, which involved that there will be a standing committee to visit the prisons and that the visits could be sudden. This would make a practical step forward that would demonstrate the seriousness of the authorities’ intentions to improve prison conditions.
Finally, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights urges the Bahraini authorities to release all prisoners who have been arrested or sentenced for reasons relating to the exercise of their freedoms and fundamental rights.