Human rights violations in prisons [Archives:2008/1188/Local News]

September 8 2008

Almigdad Mojalli
SANA'A, Sept. 4 ) Human rights' violations, lack of medical care and insufficient nutrition plague the Central Prison in Sana'a city, the House of Social Guidance and Dar Al-Amal for female juveniles. This is according to a revealing report, released last week by the Minister of Human Rights Dr. Huda Al-Ban, who visited the prisons between June and July 2007.

Central Prison

The first part of the report dealt with the Central Prison in Sana'a city and highlighted the miserable situation of both male and female prisoners there.

According to the report, many of the prisoners were sent to the prison by sheikhs and authorities that don't have the legal right to warrant an arrest. Many of the prisoners were arrested for long periods of time without prosecution. In many cases juveniles were imprisoned together with adults, female prison workers lacked the proper training and expertise on methods of dealing with prisoners, and many individuals had been imprisoned as hostages instead of a relative fugitive.

Regarding nutrition and hygiene, the quantity of food given to prisoners was not enough, especially for pregnant prisoners as the meals lacked in nutritional value. Kitchens and prisoner dwellings were found to be unclean.

The report also revealed that many of the prisoners were suffering from psychological and nervous diseases, while the appointed treatment center was unable to offer the simplest requirements of necessary care.

As for the cultural and educational situation at the Central Prison, the report stated that studying halls lacked basic necessities such as pens and copy books, as well as modern publications. Adult prisoners and juveniles were all gathered together in one study hall, and female prisoners were deprived of adequate guidance and preaching.

The House of Social Guidance, for male juveniles

With regards to the House of Social Guidance, the report revealed that the male juveniles imprisoned there were exposed to physical beatings and other forms of severe treatment. Many juveniles are sent to the house for trivial matters, some under the orders of illegitimate authorities. As a result of this, many suffered acute psychological problems. According to the report, the house is in need of specialized doctors as well as basic medical equipment, medication and essential foodstuffs.

On a more positive note, the report did point out that the cultural and educational situation in the House of the Social Guidance (Juveniles) is better than the Central Prison as it contains a computer hall, theatre and a distinctive library.

Dar Al-Amal (The House of Hope), for female juveniles

According to the report, none of the seventeen employees of the Dar Al-Amal were registered at the Ministry of Civil Services. Dar Al-Amal also lacks many social workers and psychological specialists. The report revealed that there is a continuous lack of cooperation between Dar Al-Amal's administration and prosecutors, pointing out that the female juveniles aren't allowed to appoint a lawyer to defend themselves.

Despite this, Dar Al-Amal does contain a computer room, library, workshop for dressmaking and embroidery, studying classroom and a sitting room with a TV. Unfortunately, Dar Al-Amal provides female juveniles with a male preacher instead of female one which makes it difficult for them to enquire about some of their private issues.

Although Dar Al-Amal has a high level of hygiene and the female juveniles enjoy healthy nutrition, they are deprived of specialized medical practitioners to treat them and the center's pharmacy lacks necessary medicines.

Better food, additional training for staff and stronger government support

Minister of Human Rights Dr. Huda Al-Ban made a few recommendations. With regard to the Central Prison, she recommended that the Ministry of Interior increase the quantity and quality of food provided for prisoners, especially for pregnant inmates.

She also recommended the Prison Authority to set qualifying and training programs to raise the competence of penitentiary system employees in their different activities, and strongly suggested bringing in more male and female preachers to refine prisoners religiously and ethically.

Al-Ban also recommended the Ministry of Interior perform periodic changes in the management and surveillance of prisons in all governorates.

She also recommended that the Ministry of Education provide materials like pens and copy books for prisoners. In addition to this, Al-Ban advised that the Ministry of Interior build special dwellings for juveniles away from the adult prisoners.

The Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice and the Public Prosecution are recommended to release those imprisoned by sheikhs and other illegitimate authorities.

Al-Ban recommended stronger cooperation between the Prison Authority and the various ministries, to ensure a better exchange of information and facilitate cooperation between the two sides.

Regarding the House of Social Guidance, Al-Ban called the Minister of Public Health and Population to provide the house with a specialized pediatrician and essential medical requirements.

Furthermore, Al-Ban called for the immediate release of all prisoners that were imprisoned mistakenly, and for the rapid transfer of all juvenile inmates' files to the appropriate specialized members of prosecution.