In a recently published briefing, Amnesty International said that children in Bahrain participating in anti-government demonstrations are routinely being jailed, abused and tortured.
The organization reports that “scores of children,” some as young as 13 years old, were blindfolded, beaten and tortured while in detention. Some were threatened with rape to obtain “confessions.”
“Nearly three years after Bahrain’s security forces used excessive force to crush anti-government protests, they now appear to be targeting children in an intensified crackdown. All children under the age of 18 who have not committed any recognizable offence must be released immediately. Any allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be thoroughly investigated,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Programme.
Bahrain is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which defined a child as anyone below the age of 18). The convention prohibits torture or any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Amnesty reports that, “Most children have been arrested on suspicion of participating in ‘illegal gatherings,’ rioting, burning tires or throwing Molotov cocktails at police. Many were seized during raids while they were playing at home and even at a local swimming pool. Several were denied access to their families for extended periods and interrogated without their lawyers.”
Popular protests against the government in Bahrain began in February of 2011. Government forces responded by killing dozens and arresting thousands, including 2,000 still in prison. Fair trial in Bahrain falls significantly short of international standards.
Reports received by Amnesty show that there are at least 110 children between the ages of 16 and 18 being held in the Dry Dock Prison, an adult jail. Those under the age of 15 are being held at a juvenile center where they are under social workers’ care by day but under a watch by Bahraini police by night, when the abuses take place.
At age 15, the children are transferred to the Jaw Prison, another adult facility.
“Bahrain’s government purports to respect human rights, yet it is brazenly flouting international obligations on a routine basis by resorting to extreme measures such as imposing harsh prison sentences on children,” said Boumedouha.