The Bahrain independent Ombudsman Office has reported a 375% increase in the number of complaints it has been handling, with a growing number of cases being referred to the courts and other legal bodies for further action.
These achievements were cited in the Ombudsman Office’s 2014-2015 annual report. The Office’s readiness to take tough action against officials found violating human rights has already been recognized through the prestigious Challiot Prize for promoting and protecting human rights.
The report was issued on the same day that a Bahraini court jailed six police officers, convicted of charges of torture.
Some of the key achievements resulting from the efforts of the independent Ombudsman Office are cited below:
- Ombudsman referred 19 policemen to criminal courts and 14 to disciplinary courts in one year.
- Ombudsman received 908 complaints and assistance requests – a 375% increase over 2014 with 242 complaints.
- 54 cases referred to Special Investigations Unit, 45 to military court & 3 to Public Prosecution.
- 71 of referred cases still being investigated, 10 are in court & 7 convictions have been issued.
- 11 prison deaths investigated (including 1 suicide, 2 drugs overdoses & 1 torture case at Jaw prison)
- Office awarded the Chaillot Prize for promotion and protection of Human Rights in Bahrain.
- A Bahraini court on 31 May jailed 6 police officers for up to 5 years, charged with torturing inmates.
An important area of the office’s work has been associated with prison conditions. Following a riot at Jaw Prison, the Ombudsman Office received 196 complaints and requests for assistance from families of detainees. The office followed up on the information it received and the report includes many recommendations for new measures to improve conditions, including with regard to the new facilities at the Dry Dock Detention Centre for the rehabilitation of younger detainees.
At the press conference for issuing the annual report, the Ombudsman Office Secretary-General Nawaf Al Moawadah said: “It was important for us to investigate all complaints seriously related to prisoners and detainees to ensure they are not subject to ill-treatment… However, we also take seriously the right of police officers and staff who do their jobs professionally and investigate all complaints, including false allegations”.
The transparent nature of the work conducted by the Ombudsman Office ushers in a new chapter of accountability in Bahrain, where security personnel know that they cannot act with impunity and those affected by human rights issues have an effective route for addressing their concerns and seeking justice.
We hope that this office continues to enjoy high level institutional support for addressing violations and ensuring accountability.