As part of steps to ensure the protection of prisoners’ rights in Bahrain, a number of recent visits to the Jaw prison by diplomats, members of parliament and the press have taken place. The diplomats visit included Ambassadors of the United Kingdom, China, France, Italy, Germany, Oman and the United States Charge D’Affaires. The representatives of foreign embassies toured the prison, following an invitation by Bahrain’s ministry of interior.
The US embassy welcomed the visit and stressed its commitment to working with Bahrain towards promoting human rights and the rule of law. British Ambassador to Bahrain, Roddy Drummond told Al Ayam newspaper that the necessary precautionary measures were taken to protect prisoners from the pandemic. He also welcomed this initiative as it promotes transparency. China’s Ambassador to Bahrain told Al Watan newspaper that Bahrain has adopted strong efforts in improving prison conditions and in prisoner protection.
There have been rising concerns about prison conditions due to the global pandemic. Human rights organisations have made assertions about the deterioration of prisoners’ health conditions due to the pandemic during the past period. However, the authorities have ensured that all the precautionary measures are taken including social distancing, the distribution of masks and vaccines.
Prison officials stated that the concerned human rights bodies in Bahrain, including the National Institution for Human Rights, both scheduled and unscheduled visits to Jaw Prison. All the prisoners who had registered for the optional COVID 19 vaccine have received the vaccination. Jaw Prison also allows visits by family members who have been fully vaccinated.
Earlier last month, members of the parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defense and National Security Committee also made a field visit to Jaw Prison. The visit aimed at ensuring that no human rights violations are practiced against prisoners. Following the visit that included interviews with prisoners, the committee announced that the prisoners are provided with the right to legal representation and proper health care.
Bahrain has taken several steps towards prisoner protection as part of its continuous reform process during the past decade. The establishment of the Ombudsman Office, the Prisoner and Detainees Rights Commission and the National Institution for Human Rights are among those reforms. Alternative sentencing is also being widely implemented.
The recent visits by foreign diplomats and parliament members reflects a commendable level of transparency by the authorities. This also comes in the context of a succession of prison and human rights reforms based on the recommendations of the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report. It is highly welcome that Bahrain has continued to prioritize such reforms for the sake of maximizing transparency and accountability in the Kingdom.