Watchdog completes probe into Mushaima claims
A GOVERNMENT watchdog said yesterday it has completed its investigation into a wide range of claims made about the detention and healthcare provided to Hassan Mushaima.
The Ombudsman Office’s investigator met Mushaima at Jaw Prison on Wednesday to speak to him directly about four main points – access to medical care, family visits, access to books and alleged inappropriate removal of books from his cell.
Mushaima is serving a life sentence for trying to topple Bahrain’s government in 2011 and having links to foreign terror organisations, while his son, Ali, has been convicted in absentia and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Ali Mushaima, who is wanted for terror crimes, has been protesting outside the Bahrain Embassy in London since August 1, claiming that his father is being denied medical care.
The Ombudsman’s investigator interviewed Hassan Mushaima last week which was recorded on CCTV, and examined records including his healthcare logs.
“The Ombudsman investigation independently established that it was the case that Mr Mushaima had not been permitted to leave Jaw Rehabilitation Centre to attend medical appointments in external hospitals,” the watchdog said in a statement yesterday.
“The investigation established that rehabilitation centre policy requires all inmates leaving their residential buildings to attend the centre clinic and external hospital to be handcuffed and that Mr Mushaima had been refused permission to attend appointments because he refused to be handcuffed.”
Mr Mushaima confirmed to the Ombudsman investigator that he was not willing to be handcuffed in order to attend medical appointments.
“In light of Mr Mushaima’s age and medical history, the Ombudsman Office requested the rehabilitation centre administration to, on an exceptional basis, permit Mr Mushaima to attend an outside hospital consultation for a health check-up without being handcuffed.
“The rehabilitation centre administration responded co-operatively stating that in all decisions about Mr Mushaima they were constantly reviewing their duty of care and that they would make the necessary arrangements to escort Mr Mushaima to hospital without requiring him to be handcuffed.”
Furthermore, the watchdog said Mr Mushaima confirmed to their investigator that he had attended his check-up at an external hospital without being handcuffed.
However, the inmate said he continued to refuse to attend his medical appointments in the rehabilitation centre clinic because he did not want to be handcuffed.
“This was further discussed with the rehabilitation centre administration and assurances were received that, where an inmate refused to be handcuffed during escorts to other buildings, this would not prevent the provision of required healthcare services where there was an urgent need or medical emergency.”
The watchdog said, during the interview, Mr Mushaima said that he was not permitted to attend family visits because he was not willing to be searched or handcuffed, and also said that he used to have visits for four hours each month that were now reduced to two hours monthly.
The Ombudsman stated that Article 17 of the Bahrain prison law regarding the visiting rights of inmates or detainees states that each inmate has the right to have either two visits in a month for a maximum of one hour each visit or one visit every week lasting half an hour.
“The rehabilitation centre administration told the Ombudsman investigator that visit arrangements are now implemented in a way that is consistent with the regulations and is fair and equitable to all detainees and inmates.
“It was pointed out that giving some inmates more favourable visit arrangements than others has caused difficulties in the past as this is not seen to be just.”
The investigator stated that Bahrain follows international best practices and all search documented procedures are “culturally sensitive, proportionate and respectful of human dignity”.
“The prison administration stated that, in common with other jurisdictions, searches of inmates and their families attending visits are intended to ensure inmate, visitor and staff safety and prevent the transfer of illicit materials and substances,” said the watchdog.
On the issue of access to books, the Ombudsman said the inmate said he used to have many books in his cell but all of them were confiscated and given back to his son.
“The investigation confirmed that the Bahrain Rehabilitation Centre Regulations and Jaw Rehabilitation Centre policy permit each inmate to have the Quran, the Bible or another sacred text as well as two other books in the cell at any given time.
“These books can be regularly exchanged for new books and can be examined during cell searches.”
Mr Mushaima told the Ombudsman investigator that when he requested new books, he wanted to also be permitted to retain the books that he already has.
The investigator explained this was in breach of the prison rules and regulations.
“The rehabilitation centre assured the Ombudsman that it would co-operate with Mr Mushaima to ensure that he can exchange his books as often as he wishes.”
The watchdog stated based on all the above findings, “the Ombudsman Office has completed its investigation into concerns relating to Mr Mushaima.”