New Bahrain law to improve rights of inmates
Manama, April 16, 2014
A new law governing Bahraini prisons, which improves the rights of inmates and grants access to work and education, has been passed following a seven-year tug-of-war between parliament and the Shura Council.
The new law, which has had 30 of 68 articles radically amended by the Shura Council in line with Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) recommendations and international human rights obligations, could have been delayed for at least another year if MPs insisted on their amendments being adopted.
However, parliament backed down and approved the bill yesterday, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
If MPs stood their ground, the legislation would have been shelved until after national elections due to take place in October.
However, parliament ignored a recommendation by its own committee to reject 23 out of the 30 amended articles and approved the bill, regardless.
It will now be ratified by His Majesty King Hamad and referred to the Cabinet.
The legislation, which intends to phase out the term "prison" and replace it with "correctional facility", supercedes an existing law dating back to 1964.
Under the new law, inmates will be provided free education, training and jobs and the Education Ministry must come up with a "prison curriculum" in co-ordination with the Interior Ministry.
Work would be compulsory for convicted criminals, unless they were medically unfit.
There will be a range of handicrafts or vocations that will be available to prisoners according to their qualifications and capabilities.
Inmates could even be allowed to work outside prisons, with salaries either going to their families or to them to spend in a correctional facility shop.
However, prison management would be allowed to save half of their salary to be handed over on their release if there are concerns the cash could be misused.
If the inmate died, the savings would be passed on to a relative as inheritance, or deposited in a fund for outstanding prisoners.
The law requires the appointment of a director of correctional facilities, who would be responsible for all detention centres and head a team of chief wardens, policemen, guards, educational and vocational instructors, medics, social supervisors, psychiatrists and others.
Inmates would also have the right to meet their families in their first week of imprisonment and at least twice monthly, with exceptional visits determined by the warden or his deputies.
However, prison management would be able to block visitations if the visitor disobeyed orders or possessed banned substances.
Meanwhile, authorised human rights organisations would have the right to visit correctional facilities and inmates could appeal their sentences or send pleas to the King seeking a pardon.
Wardens would be forbidden from using violent measures as a means of punishing disobedient prisoners.
Meanwhile, solitary imprisonment would only be allowed by a judge if a prisoner instigates disobedience that may jeopardise order.
The use of handcuffs would also be disallowed inside correctional facilities unless inmates or those under protective custody show resistance, refuse to move or create disruptions. - TradeArabia News Service