Nawaf Al Ma'awada
Ombudsman to probe police conduct in Bahrain
Manama, July 3, 2013
Bahrain yesterday (July 2) launched an independent ombudsman to investigate allegations of torture and police misconduct, a report said.
The office will operate independently at the Interior Ministry and will probe complaints made by citizens and expatriates against security forces or non-uniformed personnel, according to the report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
It also aims to ensure accountability in a transparent manner and conduct impromptu prison inspections.
"The Ombudsman will investigate serious claims such as death, ill-treatment, torture or any misconduct by the ministry staff," said Ombudsman secretary-general Nawaf Al Ma'awada.
He was speaking during the launch ceremony held at the Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea and Spa, which was also attended by Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, high-ranking officers, diplomats and representatives from non-governmental organisations.
"There is a complaint tracking system through which the person will know the progress at all stages," explained Al Ma'awada.
"For example, if we complete our investigations and the case is sent to the Public Prosecution, then the complainant will receive an official letter from the Ombudsman informing them about this."
Al Ma'awada said Bahrain has made history by setting up the authority - a first in the region - which is part of the implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).
"Transparency, credibility, impartiality, accountability and independence are the foundations of the Ombudsman and through this professional set up we will investigate complaints against ministry staff and those who violate the Police Code of Conduct," he said.
Another key mandate of the Ombudsman is the right to conduct both scheduled and surprise prison inspections.
"We will monitor the prisons and check the conditions of inmates and ensure their rights are not violated," said Al Ma'awada. "After our visit and training of staff at Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons in the UK, it was decided to follow the same criteria here in Bahrain."
He explained that prison officials and the Public Security Chief will be notified in the event of a planned visit.
"Not less than three people from the Ombudsman will conduct the visit to detention centres," he added.
"In case of an unannounced visit, our team will visit the prison and directly present the duty officer in charge a letter stating our intention to monitor the prison."
Al Ma'awada said complaints from people living abroad will also be investigated, along with previous cases related to mistreatment allegations against public security personnel.
"We will follow up all complaints and investigate the allegations," he explained. "I would like to make it clear that we will only look into the complaints and do not play the role of judiciary."
Diplomats can also file complaints on behalf of foreign workers, who have to sign off on the official documents.
"Embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions here are entitled to file complaints on behalf of their nationals," Al Ma'awada said.
Ombudsman deputy secretary-general Osama Al Asfoor said a nationwide media campaign will also be launched to target expatriates.
People can also register their case with the ministry's Internal Investigations Directorate, located in the five governorates.
If they do not find the findings of the Ombudsman satisfactory, they have the right to appeal against the decision within 60 days from the date of notification.
The ceremony also featured the launch of the Ombudsman's logo and its website ombudsman.bh. – TradeArabia News Service