Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Bahraini authorities to order an “independent investigation” into allegations that security forces used violence and excessive force to suppress unrest in Jaw prison on March 10, 2015.
“The more we learn about Bahrain’s response to the Jaw prison unrest, the more troubling the picture becomes,” said Joe Stork, the HRW deputy director for Middle East and North Africa.
“The authorities need to allow independent medical access to the prison at once and ensure their access to building 10, where the most serious abuses are alleged to have taken place.”
In mid-April, HRW conducted separate phone interviews with three inmates who had been recently released from the prison. They said they witnessed that security forces systematically beat inmates as they emptied cells when quelling the unrest on March 10.
Security forces subjected prisoners to physical and psychological abuse and deprived them of medical treatment for their injuries, the inmates added.
Prisoners had been moved outside for weeks, frequently beaten, drenched with cold water, and forced to chant pro-government slogans. Some others were taken to rooms without closed-circuit TV cameras and were beaten there, they further noted.
Article 54 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states that “Officers of the institutions shall not, in their relations with the prisoners, use force except in self-defense or in cases of attempted escape, or active or passive physical resistance to an order based on law or regulations. Officers who have recourse to force must use no more than is strictly necessary…”
Bahrain has ratified and is bound by the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In April 2013, however, the Bahraini authorities cancelled the visit of Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture.
“These allegations make it all the more necessary for the UN special rapporteur on torture to be promptly allowed into Bahrain to report on the treatment of detainees, some of whom have done nothing more than criticize the Bahraini authorities,” Stork maintained.
On March 10, Bahraini riot police forces, trying to retake the four buildings of the prison, fired birdshots at protesting prisoners in the facility, beat them, and used teargas against them after unrest began following an altercation that popped up in the visiting room that morning between prison staff and family members visiting an inmate.
The attack mostly targeted inmates in cells 1 and 4, where political activists and members of the opposition groups are being held.
The Bahraini regime keeps hundreds of political people behind bars in the notorious Jaw prison, Bahrain’s central detention facility.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations on the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa family to relinquish power.
The Manama regime’s crackdown on peaceful protests has intensified since the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the country’s main opposition group.