Report: The reality of young convicts in the Dry Dock refutes what was stated in the new Restorative Justice Law

The Law on Restorative Justice and Protection of Children from Abuse was passed on 15 February 2021 and came into force on 18 August 2021. So far, the passage of the law seems futile and has not brought an end to the violations and ill-treatment of young convicts at Dry Dock. In this report, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) outline the most recent allegations of abuse from reports on the ground.

The new Law stipulates that judicial and legislative authorities give priority to the best interests of the child in all judgments, as well as protecting them from abuse, exploitation, neglect, and moral, physical and spiritual care. It also ensures that authorities focus on the health, education and social care of the child and keep this at the forefront of their considerations when making a judgment. All of this is done to bring Bahraini legislation in line with both the constitution and international human rights standards, with a particular focus on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Bahrain acceded to in 1991 and its Optional Protocols in 2004.

Despite the impression of progress on a legislative level, all of the minors mentioned in this report have documented violations that have been committed against them. ADHRB has recorded several areas of abuse including; the carrying out of unfair trials, the worst types of physical and psychological torture, ill-treatment, denial of contact with their families, appointment of an unknown lawyer, forcing them to confess to trumped-up charges under torture, depriving them of healthcare, discrimination and insulting their sect. This abuse violates several articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the CRC, The Convention against Torture (CAT) and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules).

The articles of the Restorative Justice for Children Law that are supposed to be implemented are summarized as follows:

  • Ensuring that children are treated without discrimination and in an equal measure of appropriate and humane treatment, and ensuring that all rights, basic requirements and necessary needs are met in a manner that preserves their dignity and safety against all that exposes them to danger or ill-treatment.
  • The child is guaranteed all the legal rights and guarantees stipulated in national legislation and international conventions to ensure the provision of all aspects of legal assistance necessary to protect his entity and safeguard his rights.
  • There is no criminal responsibility for a child who has not exceeded the full age of fifteen years old at the time of the crime, If he commits a felony or misdemeanor, he is considered to be at risk, and the specialized prosecution must initiate investigation procedures to verify the fulfillment of the legal elements of the crime attributed to the child in accordance with the legally established guarantees.
  • At all stages of the criminal case and during the execution of the sentence, the accused child shall have the right to be heard and his demands understood, and to be treated in a manner that preserves his dignity and guarantees his physical, psychological and moral integrity, and in particular shall have the right to enjoy guarantees such as: being informed immediately and directly of the charges against him, enabling him to seek the assistance of a lawyer, not forcing him to confess the guilt attributed to him.
  • The child’s guardian or the person responsible for him, as the case may be, must be notified through the legally established methods of every decision or action taken against the child.
  • When placing the child in a specialized hospital, it should be taken into account that it is commensurate with his condition and his age, and that he receives the care that his condition requires, and the officials of the center must visit the child at least once every fifteen days and submit a report on his condition and behavior and observations that are worthy of study and research, and if the child turns twenty-one years old and his condition requires continued treatment, he is then transferred to the department of the hospital which is designated for treating adults or to another hospital, and the Correctional Justice Court or the committee, as the case may be, may decide to hand the child over to his guardian or the person responsible for his care if it is proven that his health condition permits this.
  • Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of people of his age. He shall have the right to contact his family through messages, visits, or any other appropriate means as determined by the laws and regulations.
  • Not to discriminate between child prisoners on the grounds of sex, origin, language, religion or creed, and classify them into degrees according to their ages, the type of crime, the degree of its seriousness, the frequency of its commission, and the duration of their sentences, They must also be treated in accordance with scientific standards in the individualization and gradation of punitive treatment of children in a manner that ensures their social rehabilitation, and that they are periodically subjected to medical examinations to prove their  physical, mental and psychological health condition. It is also necessary to develop scientific and professional study curricula that help develop their scientific capabilities, Ensuring their right to freely practice their religious rites.
  • If the child has been subjected to physical or sexual mistreatment by the person responsible for him, the Specialized Prosecution shall appoint a legal representative for the child to carry out all the procedures stipulated in the law, including filing a complaint, objection, grievance and appeal against all procedures taken regarding the child.

The Restorative Justice Law is a way to whitewash violations

The institutions that are concerned with monitoring and investigating these violations are in fact complicit with the whitewashing of the situation of young convicts in the Dry Dock Detention Center. The Ministry of Interior and the Ombudsman are supposed to protect the rights of prisoners and investigate when allegations of ill-treatment arise. The Ombudsman has tried to prove the success of the Restorative Justice and Protection Law for Children by visiting the Correction and Rehabilitation Center and the pretrial detention center in Dry Dock on 1 November 2021. They reported that in the random interviews they conducted, prisoners described a situation where they had access to healthcare as well as calls and video communications with their family. The Ombudsman reported that they had full access to their basic rights. However, ADHRB has recently been monitoring the situation on the ground and found this to not be the case. In the past 2 months, we have found that these young convicts have endured extreme psychological and physical suffering, both during detention and after their arrest as well as poor health care and denial of appropriate treatment.

On September 28, 2021, Al-Jazeera broadcast a documentary episode of the “Distance Zero” program which presented evidence of the worst violations against young contacts in the Dry Dock. Bahraini authorities quickly responded through state media by broadcasting a statement made by a political prisoner from inside Dry Dock who refuted allegations contained in the report. The Bahraini authorities also practiced their usual methods of whitewashing before the international community through a statement delivered at the 48th session of the Human Rights Council between 13 September and 18 October. In this statement they referred to the success of Bahrain’s implementation of the Children’s Restorative Justice Law, claiming that it guarantees the rights of children and protects them from abuse in accordance with international human rights standards.

The latest violations in the Dry Dock Detention Center

The Dry Dock Detention Center for young convicts has witnessed an escalation in the frequency of  abuses, violating international treaties and covenants, especially the CRC. The most prominent of these violations are related to physical violence and abuse. On 17 November, we reported that the prison director, officer Fahd Al-Kooheji, stormed the cells of the young convicts in the Dry Dock and confiscated religious books and all the prisoners belongings with the threat of further restrictions as punishment for their continued hunger strike. On 16 November, we received the announcement of the  young convicts in Building 17, who were going on strike to demand that the doors should be kept open for them and that they would be allowed to go out to sunbathe, as they are kept in their room 23 hours a day and are only allowed to go out for one hour. The convicts also complained that many of the phones were broken and that there was no hot water to shower with, so they would have to wait till noon for the temperature to rise. Time and time again, they have been promised that this will change, however, to date, nothing about their condition has changed.

ADHRB has also been monitoring what was stated in a voice note of the father of the minor prisoner, Sayed Mujtaba Saeed AlKhabbaz, who was beaten and his books were confiscated. Sayed Mojtaba is awaiting his verdict on charges of joining a terrorist group and initiating bombing events. He had been subjected to the most severe forms of torture, electric shocks and threats of physical assault to obtain confessions.

The minor political prisoner, Ali Ahmed Khamis, also gave an audio message stating that he and a colleague had been tortured with wires by the police and had been subjected to insults, slander, cruel, degrading treatment and physical and psychological violence, just because they were accused of knocking on the door of the cell. They were threatened with an increase in punishment if a complaint was  made, which contradicts the image that the Correction and Rehabilitation Center is trying to project in terms of good treatment of prisoners, especially of the young convicts.

On 26 October, the family of the minor political prisoner, Sadeq Jaafar Ali, raised the alarm on the condition of their son, who has been in security isolation for nearly a year, and who had been on a hunger strike since October 14. The family has demanded his release from isolation and to allow him to visit and obtain appropriate medical treatment. ADHRB has documented the case of Sadeq, who was arrested at the age of 16 and sentenced to more than 13 years in prison. He suffers from the chronic skin disease, eczema, and does not receive appropriate treatment for this.

On October 25, we observed that the minor political prisoner, Hussein Matar, was forced to sign papers without knowing their content, after being transferred to solitary confinement for the second time because he protested with some prisoners against their denial of communication. He was arrested for the first time in 2018 when he was 14 years old, spent two years in prison and was released under an amnesty  a few days before the end of his sentence. However, after less than two months, he was arrested again, sentenced to 3 years in prison. Hussein suffers from sickle cell anemia and favism, he is in urgent need of healthcare but is systematically denied appropriate treatment. He recently went on hunger strike to demand better meals for all the prisoners.

On October 19, the minor political prisoner Sayed Reda Baqer Fadel reported that his health had worsened due to his rare skin disease going untreated from the time of his arrest until now. The disease has spread all over his face and body and not received proper treatment. He suffers from the spread of warts all over his body and has exhausted all his options in an attempt to obtain treatment. In August, he was placed in solitary confinement for an unknown period and was deprived of all communication. When he was later allowed to communicate, he stated that he could not speak freely about the physical and psychological torture he was subjected to.  16-year-old Sayed Reda was sentenced in an unfair mass trial that sentenced 18 defendants to 15 years in prison on charges of belonging to an illegal group called “Qassem Soleimani Cell,” according to what ADHRB has documented.

ADHRB has also monitored the complaints of a group of political prisoners inside a cell about the insufficient air conditioning. Water has continued to leak from the air conditioner into the cell and the prisoners have had to put a piece of cloth over to ameliorate the leakage. One of the prisoners of the cell was beaten and insulted by the prison police after his objection to police entering the cell at night, turning on the lamps and waking the detainees in an inhumane way. The officers took him out of the cell and with another prisoner and put them in solitary confinement for 5 days.

More broadly, currently, ADHRB is monitoring the ongoing violations and ill-treatment of young convicts, including the provision of poor quality meals, denial of proper health care, widespread allergies and skin diseases and denial of communication. Furthermore, a number of prisoners went on hunger strike in protest against the poor quality of meals, including the minor prisoners Mahdi Abdel-Wahhab, Sadeq Jaafar Ali and Hussein Matar.

Clear evidence of violations

ADHRB has documented the cases of 4 former political prisoners, who were minor convicts in Dry Dock Detention Center. Below, we outline the psychological suffering of minor prisoners after their release under the Alternative Sentencing programme. We chose not to present their names as they wished to ensure they would not be subjected to reprisals for speaking out.

 A minor ex-prisoner who prefers not to be named

Regarding the provision of compensation to the prisoner after his release, according to the former prisoner, there was no talk of compensation. Instead, there were orders to compel the detainees and their families to thank and praise the king and his son for releasing the detainee under the provision of alternative punishments in front of official television cameras and local newspapers to brighten the image and clean up allegations of violations.

The minor ex-prisoner explained to ADHRB the most horrific abuses and mistreatment he witnessed in Dry Dock juvenile convicts prison:

  • Inhuman treatment and physical and verbal violence: the detainees were beaten by the police as well as the center’s official, “Fahd Al-Kooheji,” who sometimes personally beat the detainees inside the cell in front of the cameras. As for the first lieutenant, “Mohammed Khaled Al-Mutawa,” he was free to torture the detainees without restraint, from entering cells in the middle of the night or dawn and beating detainees, waking the detainees barbarically and brutally and digging and throwing their belongings on the ground. Some detainees were made to shave their heads completely, whilst officials treated them in a humiliating way, and subjected them to humiliation if they refused to do so. Prisoners were beaten away from the surveillance cameras, handcuffed and placed in solitary confinement. A particular mention was made of the agent, Rashid Al-Dosari, who became famous for insulting detainees with obscene words.
  • Phone communication: once a month the ex-prisoner was allowed to call for 10 minutes or less, and sometimes it was dependent on the mood of the policeman. The phone calls infringed on the privacy of the detainees as the room had two prisoners making calls at the same time, in the presence of guards. The prisoners were forced to put the phone on loud, limiting the ability to hear between the two parties and forcing both prisoners to waste time repeating parts of the conversation.
  • Going to the clinic: Sometimes prisoners are forced to give up going to the clinic in the place of others. The ability to access the doctor is dependent on the mood of the prison officer. Even when the prisoner has access to the doctor, they are forced to enter the clinic with their hands tied and often inappropriate medicines are prescribed.

 Minor former political prisoner M.

Former political prisoner M. was released after serving one year and eight months of his total two year sentence.He was arrested when he was 15 years old for possessing, assembling and manufacturing Molotov cocktails and burning tires. Since he had been released under the Alternative Penal Code, he was subject to strict conditions as he was not allowed to be in ‘suspicious places’, he could not participate in political rallies and was told of he faced severe threats if  was arrested again.

When he was arrested, police forces and individuals in civilian clothing stormed his house in the evening and took him to the Criminal Investigations building, where he was severely beaten all over his body. He was taken by bus to the police academy, blindfolded and handcuffed, where he was subjected to violent physical torture through beating, kicking and psychological torture through shouting, insulting, insulting him with obscene words, and exposure to his Shiite sect. After this extensive abuse, M. was forced to sign a prepared statement of confession which they did not allow him to read, and which they filmed him doing.

He was held in Jau prison for 8 days, during which he was tortured for 6 days, and was not allowed to perform the noon prayer. Because of the torture, he suffered from sporadic pains all over his body. Officials only allow him two minutes of contact with his family every two days after being told what to say, ‘I am fine, all good, I am  in the investigations’.

After 8 days, they took him to the Public Prosecution Office and he denied all the charges against him. The public prosecutor then threatened him to confess to these charges without the presence of a lawyer or guardian. He did not receive special treatment as a minor and was consistently denied access to appropriate adult council.

  1. did not go to the medical clinic after being subjected to the most severe torture, for fear of further degrading treatment.

The minor prisoner M. spent a year and several months in juvenile prison in the section of Dry Dock designated for juveniles, during which he was subjected to the most inhumane treatment, outlined below:

  • Police entering cells and insulting prisoners with obscene language that insulted them personally as well as the Shiite community.
  • The practice of physical abuse against prisoners, detainees are beaten in places where there are no surveillance cameras, such as the officer’s office or the office of the duty official, as the camera they have is hidden with paper boxes.
  • He was placed in solitary confinement, the prisoner were he was beaten, his hands were shackled.
  • Prisoners suffer from unclean drinking water and the lack of cups. Prison officials continually neglect cleaning the drinking water dispenser. Sometimes, the water is unclean and therefore unfit for drinking. Furthermore, often in the evening, prisoners’ requests for drinking water are ignored and they have to wait until the next morning. Prisoners also often drink from the same cup over and over again,leading to an increased possibility of disease transmission between prisoners.
  • The prison does not provide cleaning tools for cells and bathrooms, unless they are donated by parties such as the Red Cross.
  • The prison is also not providing masks, sterilizers, and gloves, except in the case of visits by officials from outside the prison.

After his release under alternative sentences, the minor prisoner M. suffered from depression and wanting to isolate himself from others so to the psychological impact of his detention.

The former minor prisoner H.

Minor Prisoner H. was arrested when he was 16 years old and then released after serving 2 years of his total sentence of 3 years and 8 months.

Since his arrest, he has been subjected to several violations. For example, one night his house was stormed at night by officers in civilian clothing, anti-riot forces, and commanders. He was cruelly handcuffed and beaten on several parts of his body. This group continued the raids on other houses and arrested several people that night, afterwards, taking them to the criminal investigation building.

In the building of the criminal investigations, the prisoner H. was exposed to the most severe types of torture, as he was painfully beaten with his colleagues, and they were ordered to stand by the wall and to take off their clothes. Then, they were filmed with a video camera in their underwear. In addition, they took their fingerprints and made them contact their families on the condition that they tell their families that they are fine in their investigation building.

After this, they took prisoner H. and his colleagues to Al-Qalaa hospital for regular examinations, and they were moved by bus to Jau Central prison, building 15, where they were severely beaten and kicked, then being moved to a narrow room. As soon as the former prisoner H., came out of the room, he was hit in the stomach by a policeman and he was given a number to be called by an alternative name. Later, they took him and two others into a cold room, where he was made to strip completely in front of the air conditioner and then was brought to the officer.

In the beginning of the investigation, H. denied admitting the charges against him. As a result, he was beaten by the baton in the head, legs and face, and sexually harassed by officers touching his genitals. Then, they hung his hands for more than half an hour, whilst they burned them with cigarettes.

In addition, he was subjected to verbal violence through insults and dirty words,  as well as made to listen to disrespectful abuse of the Shiite doctrine and symbols. He was cursed and compared to criminal prisoners accused of drug possession. When he asked for water, his request wasn’t fulfilled, and he wasn’t allowed to drink for a period of more than 24 hours.

The interrogation of prisoner H. continued for ten days, during which he and his colleagues were beaten, insulted, and held in solitary confinement. They were allowed to contact their families only twice during these 10 days for a few seconds, and on the condition of saying that they were fine.

Prisoner H. was denied access to a lawyer or his guardians and they were not present during his interrogation. He was then forced to sign a prepared investigation report, without being able to read the contents.

Despite being subjected to the most severe forms of torture, the forensic doctor did not find evidence he has been subjected to torture. Prisoner H. also suffers from schizophrenia and during this period did not receive proper medical treatment, leading to a deterioration in his condition. Furthermore, as a result of medical negligence, he suffered from eye and ear pain in addition to itching and did not receive the necessary treatment.

The prisoner H. reported that when they used to ask to visit the clinic, the policeman used to choose the number of sick detainees according to his mood, and usually, he would only choose one or two people. In addition, he used to act as a doctor and ask the prisoners to examine them before letting them go. He also said that when he used to enter the doctor’s office, he remained in handcuffs and medicines were prescribed to him without examination and diagnosis. Medicines were delivered to the prisoners after a week of visiting the clinic, and most of the time, they weren’t suitable, and sometimes they didn’t receive any medicines at all.

The former prisoner H. had witnessed the worst types of inhumane treatment, at the dry dock prison for minors, detailed as follows:

  • The officer or the policeman used to enter the cell, and then choose a prisoner and ordered him to get out and stand against the wall in the corridor, whilst officers mocked him, called him names and insulted him.
  • Providing low quality and non-varied meals, in addition, the chicken and meat were sometimes not cooked appropriately and in unhygienic conditions.
  • Each Tuesday, they serve inedible rotten shawarma for dinner, and on Thursday, the detainees were often exposed to food poisoning because of serving rotten chicken meal for dinner. As for the vegetables, most of the time it contained insects.
  • The prisoners weren’t allowed to buy essential products from the canteen or the “store” by themselves, so the purchases were only made through the policeman. Often, the food that he would bring would be expired.
  • The air conditioning wasn’t working during the summer.
  • Frequent outages of water and it was often not valid to be used.
  • The beds, blankets, and pillows used by the prisoners weren’t clean and appear to be very used.
  • The spread of skin diseases was rife among prisoners.
  • The lack of notebooks and pens and unavailability of a social worker.

The Former political prisoner A.

Former prisoner A was arrested when he was 15 years old and sentenced to 7 years in prison, along with the revoking his citizenship, and a fine of 200 dinars. Later, his citizenship was restored under a royal pardon. Then, he was released under the alternative penal code after serving 3 years and four months of his sentence.

He was subjected to many violations from the moment of his arrest, as his house was raided at four in the morning by civilians affiliated with the criminal investigation forces and the commando forces. Without showing an arrest warrant,they confiscated one mobile phone and arrested him. The arrest process was videotaped. He was beaten and kicked on different parts of his body infront of his house after being arrested. He was interrogated on the bus about other people, whom they wanted to know their whereabouts to arrest them also. Then they took him to the criminal investigation building, where he was stripped naked.

Then, he was transferred to Building 15, Jau Prison, where he was subjected to insults and disrespectful comments. In the evening, they took him to the Police Academy building for interrogation. They moved him from the Academy building and then returned him to Building 15 and forced him to stay in a cold room, and this went on for a week. They took off all his clothes inside the officer’s office, with his eyes blindfolded and his hands tied back with handcuffs, this led to him bleeding because of the heavy pressure on his hands.

He stayed for about 22 days in Building 15 and signed ready-made statements that he wasn’t allowed to read, along with a video recording of his confession to charges that had been prepared on a piece of paper that he was required to memorize and narrate in front of the camera. He was also threatened that he would be tortured again if he didn’t admit the crimes he admitted on the camera to the chief prosecutor.

Upon entering the Public Prosecution Office, he denied the accusation against him, and he was hit with a sharp object. However, he did not confess to the charges, and the investigation ended without the presence of a lawyer or one of his guardians.

For 22 days, he remained under psychological pressure, torture, and deprivation of clean clothes, and was not seen by the forensic doctor. Because of his exposure to psychological and physical pressure and exhaustion, he thought of committing suicide, but after he went to the detention center in Dry Dock, his psychological condition improved as he was surround by others

The former prisoner A., has witnessed the worst typed of inhumane treatment, during his detention at dry dock’s designated for young people,including:

  • Witnessing one of the detainees being forced to shave his head completely, to create enmity between prisoners, and then moving them to solitary confinement for three days.
  • The presence of the guards at late times to ensure the presence of detainees in their cells and to provoke them.
  • Meanwhile, if a prisoner was using the bathroom located outside the cell, they locked the cell, and prevented him from entering, and then took him to the police station.
  • Sprinkling pepper on prisoners.
  • Spitting saliva on the prisoner’s face and forcing him to rub his face with a floor mop after that was used for the bathroom.
  • Depriving the prisoner of proper eye treatment and delaying taking him to the medical appointments.
  • Drinking water contains insects.
  • Denial of access to the clothes brought to the prisoners from their parents.
  • The TV was confiscated from the cell after prisoner’s demand for their most basic rights to be respected.
  • Serving food of poor quality, which contains hair, in addition to serving spoiled bread, and tea has been served in a very dirty jug, which wasn’t valid to be used.

 Legal Analysis

All minors involved in this report have been subjected to unfair trials, were arrested without presenting an arrest warrant or providing a reason for their arrest. Furthermore, they were not allowed to appoint a lawyer before the trial and were interrogated without the presence of a lawyer or legal guardian. In the absence of a lawyer or family member, they were denied their right to effective compensation under Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Furthermore, these minors have been deprived from contacting a lawyer since the beginning of their detention and subsequent key phases including the interrogation phase, according to the documents received by ADHRB. As a result, they were not given adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense and communicate with their lawyer, which is also in violation of Article 14(3)b of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Articles (37)(d) and (40)(2)(b).) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

All the individuals mentioned in this report have been subjected to physical and psychological torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the Bahraini authorities. They were beaten, kicked, held in solitary confinement after being stripped naked, placed in cold rooms, and filmed in this condition, and their hands were hung for long periods of time, they were sexually assaulted, and their Shiite sect was insulted and disrespected.

The Bahraini authorities has misused their power to torture these minors, something that is considered a violation for Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article (37) (a) and (c) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Articles (2) and (16) of the Convention against Torture.

ADHRB has proven by documenting the cases of these individuals that they were indeed tortured to extract confessions from them and force them to sign the prepared confessions against them, without allowing them to read them. These statements, made under pressure, are then used in court to incriminate them, in violation of several international laws and conventions that Bahrain is party to.

We would like to point out that in all the aforementioned cases, confessions were made without the presence of a lawyer, which makes these confessions inadmissible as evidence in legal proceedings.  Consequently, the right of the minor not to be compelled to confess guilt has been violated under Article 14 (3) (g) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article (40) (2) (b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

As for deliberately practicing psychological and physical torture to extract confessions, Bahrain has also violated its international obligations under Articles (1), (15) and (16) of the Convention against Torture.

The minors concerned in this report were not given adequate medical care, were given expired and poor-quality food, and were also held in substandard sanitary conditions, in violation of rules (13.5) and (26.2) of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Rules 13.5 and 26.2) Nelson Mandela).