Poor Conditions in Bahrain’s Notorious Jau Prison Violate International Standards

The inhumane conditions in Bahrain’s Jau Prison – which houses political leaders, human rights defenders, and other prisoners of conscience – clearly violate international detention standards. The prison’s unsanitary environment, combined with physical and psychological ill-treatment, poor health care, and obstructed family visits, infringes upon the human rights of prisoners.

Systematic abuses in Jau Prison have noticeably increased since 2017 and under the new director of the Ministry of Interior prison system, Brigadier Abdulsalam Youssef al-Oraifi, who was appointed by the king in January 2018. Along with Jau’s acting supervisor as of January 2018, Lieutenant Colonel Adnan Bahar, al-Oraifi has overseen an intensification of physical and psychological ill treatment at the facility, allowing riot police and other abusive security forces to manage aspects of the prison. Prisoners are beaten and unlawfully subjected to sectarian discrimination on a regular basis – with no repercussions for perpetrators. A group of officers in Jau, identified as Officer Badr al-Ruwayi, Lieutenant Hasan Khalil, Lieutenant Hassan Qambar, and Captain Mohammed Abdul Hamid, were reportedly appointed to supervise the building holding high-profile detainees and have been behind some of the recent beatings and mistreatment of prisoners. Inmates also continue to face severe restrictions on contact with members of their family. Family visits are frequently obstructed and inmates are repeatedly denied telephone communication.

Adequate healthcare is  also a major problem in Jau Prison. Detainees are deprived of their right to treatment, and an apparent shortage in necessary medicines forces prisoners to share what remaining pills they have amongst each other. The health of prisoners has greatly deteriorated because of the lack of access to medical care, and both the head of the Ministry of Interior’s Directorate of Health and Social Affairs, Major Fatima Omar, and the Director of Clinics, Abdul Rahman Bujairi, have been implicated in these abuses.

Prisoners in Jau also suffer from a lack of basic amenities and services – partially due to severe overcrowding in the prison. This has been especially detrimental in the record-breaking heat of the summer, where areas of the prison are without air conditioning and prisoners have reported being deprived of access to drinking water for extended periods of time. Limited access to water has also effected sanitation, creating an unhygienic living environment. Due to overcrowding and restrictions by authorities there is also a shortage of food and hygiene supplies, and some prisoners are forced to sleep on the ground because there is not enough space to properly house all the prisoners.

The poor conditions of Jau Prison and the general ill-treatment of detainees in Bahrain violates international human rights and prison standards. Concrete changes must be made to ensure prisoners have access to basic services and adequate health care, are allowed to communicate with family, and are not subjected to abuse and mistreatment. Additionally, prison officials who participate or are complicit in these egregious human rights violations must be held accountable.

Monica Zuraw is an Advocacy Fellow at ADHRB.