Al Mouawda at the conference - BNA

Manama: Bahrain’s main prison is operating at 33 per cent over capacity and authorities should promptly step in to reduce the overcrowding, an official report said.

The prison in Jaw held 1,608 prisoners, but had a capacity of only 1,201, according to the report drafted by the country’s Ombudsman following a three-day visit from September 3-5 to the facility in the south of Bahrain.

The report urged authorities to separate prisoners aged between 15 and 18 from other categories and to install surveillance cameras in all buildings, corridors and wards.

“We used standards and criteria that will consolidate the professionalism of our tasks within a general framework that includes respect for human rights, the consolidation of justice and rule of law and the strengthening of public trust,” Nawaf Al Mouawda, the Ombudsman, told the media in the capital Manama.

“The standards and criteria modelled after international [ones] are our principal references,” he said.

The visits are in line with the implementation of Recommendations 1717 and 1722, paragraph (d), issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), the international fact-finding panel that looked into the events that occurred in February and March 2011 and published a report with a set of recommendations in November the same year.

Standards adopted and followed by the ombudsman under the section of treatment and conditions included respect, safety, legal use of force, physical conditions, prisoner or detainee care, ensuring prisoners or detainees are offered sufficient food and drink, prisoners or detainees are offered outside exercise, reading materials and the opportunity to have visits and calls, prisoner or detainee transportation, rehabilitation, learning and work and skills activities.

Standards under the section of individual rights included the legality of imprisonment or detention and ensuring prisoners or detainees who have difficulty communicating are adequately provided for.

Under the healthcare section, the standards to be upheld were health services, patient care, and making sure prisoners or detainees receive prescribed medication and psychological health care.

Osama Ahmad Al Asfoor, the Deputy to the Ombudsman, said that the criteria and standards were used for the first time during the visit to the Rehabilitation and Correction in Jaw.

“A team from the ombudsman assessed the implementation of the criteria related to humane treatment, the conditions of the centres, the legal rights and guarantees of the detainees and the health care available,” he said.

The team interviewed prisoners, detainees and staff on a number of issues to assess the implementation of the criteria and standards, he said.

The team also had access to documents, records, information and statistics that helped the members with drafting the report.

“Our report included a set of general recommendations and special healthcare recommendations,” Al Asfoor said.

The Ombudsman was formally launched in July.