Bahrain: Dissidents in Jaw Prison ‘subjected to mass torture’ in nightmarish building No. 10
By Gianluca Mezzofiore Senior Foreign News Reporter
April 17, 2015 18:20 BST
A recent riot at the infamous Bahrain’s Jaw Prison, south of capital Manama, where political and criminal prisoners are held, has led to a bloody crackdown with harrowing episodes of mass torture by riot police, according to a human rights group and testimony exclusively seen by IBTimes UK.
Hundreds of prisoners were subjected to tear gas, shot from close range, beaten and rounded up and taken outdoors, where they were stripped naked and left for three days. Then, they were crammed inside a tent for 30 days with no access to toilets or showers. Inmates were called one by one and taken to infamous building number 10, where further torture took place.
Reports of alleged torture and human rights violations come just days after Amnesty International issued a damning 79-page report accusing the Bahraini government of rampant abuse by security forces on dissidents – with documented episodes of torture and mistreatment of detainees, continued jailing of activists and bans on protests in the capital.
They used tear gas and gunshots. One guy was shot at a very close range. Everyone was beaten and asked to stand down”
– Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei
The outbreak of violence started on 10 March due to poor conditions and overcrowding in the prison, whose capacity is 450 but currently contains 1020 prisoners.
A government newspaper reported that the unrest was the result of violence by prisoners after a row between prison guards and three visitors. However, local rights groups said security forces used excessive force against prisoners.
The reaction of the Bahraini government was to bring in the feared riot police, formed by Pakistani and Jordanian guards, which surrounded the main buildings of the prison and then broke inside.
“Then the torture started,” Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of Advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, who collected the testimonies, told IBTimes UK. “They used tear gas and gunshots. One guy was shot at a very close range. Everyone was beaten and asked to stand down.”
Then, the prisoners were rounded up, taken outside the prison facility and stripped of their clothes. They also had cold water poured on them. “Riot police used broken table legs and wood bars to beat the prisoners,” Alwadaei said.
Held outside for three days
The inmates were allegedly forced to stay outside for three days, during which they were regularly beaten by the riot police.
“People were called by name and taken to building number 10, where torture was conducted in much more horrific way,” Alwadaei said.
One of the witnesses reported seeing a man with who suffered further injuries to his head after being beaten where the stitches had been placed.
Another prisoner had his nose and leg broken and was subjected to “psychological and physical torture”, according to the transcript of a testimony seen by IBTimes UK. He was also banned from accessing the toilet and had overnight cold water dropped on him while sleeping.
“What is happening now in Jaw prison is even worse than 2011,”Alwadaei said. “We were shocked about the details.”
Families of some inmates at the prison were allowed no contact with them for more than one month, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which issued a statement earlier in April:
The wife of the human rights activist Naji Fateel said she has not heard from her husband since March 10. On March 24, she attempted to make a scheduled visit but said she was told by a member of prison staff that visits were “suspended indefinitely.” Fateel, who is also held in building 4, is serving a 15-year sentence for allegedly establishing a group that aimed to change the constitution.
The Bahrain’s police media centre at the Ministry of Interior denied any torture allegations when asked by IBTimes UK.
“No, these are all false rumours,” a spokesperson said. “We don’t use torture in Bahraini prisons. These are all lies… who told you this? It’s all lies”.
The testimonies of the alleged violations have been submitted to the UN for breach of international human rights and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners and the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
After the crackdown on the pro-democracy uprising in 2011, led by Saudi forces, Bahrain has plunged deeper into sectarian conflict between the wealthy ruling Sunni-al-Khalifa minority and the Shia majority.
King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa has pledged to implement recommendations by an independent commission of inquiry but reforms are progressing slowly and reconciliation talks have stalled. Violence between riot police and protesters is a weekly occurrence.
Decrees approved by Hamad include up to seven years in jail for criticising him. All protests, sit-ins and gatherings in Manama are banned indefinitely.
The Amnesty report documented dozens of cases of detainees being beaten, deprived of sleep and adequate food, burnt with cigarettes, sexually assaulted, electrocuted including on the genitals and burnt with an iron in order to try and force them to “confess” to crimes.
The Amnesty report added: “One such detainee told us he was struck with the claw of a hammer on several parts of his body. Another said he was raped by having a plastic pipe inserted into his anus.”