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Bahrain arrests and detains children on charges of "illegal gathering"

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses strong concern over the ongoing targeting of minors in Bahrain.

On 20 May 2014, Jehad Nabeel Al-Sameea, 11, was arrested from his neighbourhood in Sanabis by security forces when they stormed the area to attack a peaceful protest.

Al-Sameea was interrogated and released later that day, but was requested to return two days later. On the morning of 22 May 2014, he appeared, accompanied by his father, at the police station where he was taken to the juvenile prosecution which ordered his detention and then transferred him to the juvenile court judge. On the same day, juvenile court judge Ebrahim Al-Jafn issued an order of detention for seven days against Al-Sameea on charges of “physical assault of a policeman, damage to two police cars, illegal gathering, rioting, and possession of Molotov cocktails.” Al-Sameea's lawyer stated that he believed these charges unreasonable given the small size and limited physical power of the child.

According to his lawyer, Al-Sameea was so distressed and overwrought that he was unable to speak through his tears when he was presented to the court.

Al-Sameea previously spent over a month in juvenile detention center, from December 2013 to January 2014, which caused him to miss a significant amount of his school classes and his term exams. With this repeated detention, his progress at school will be severely and negatively impacted. He is currently being held at the juvenile detention center at Isa Town.

On 20 May 2014, the juvenile court judge ordered a week long detention for two brothers, Mohamed Hussain, 11, and Ali Hussain, 13, on charges of “illegal gathering” after arresting them from their neighbourhood in Nuwidrat.

Minors below the age of 15 are not criminally responsible in the eyes of Bahraini law; however, the authorities often arrest them from protests and detain them for several weeks. BCHR has documented more than 70 cases of arrests of children since January 2014. While some of the children have been released, many more remain in detention.

The detention and ill-treatment of a child without an immediate and just cause, in the absence of a conviction of a crime, against his mental and physical well-being, and interest as a student violates several articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states in Article 3: "In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration." Article 37 continues, stating: "State Parties shall ensure that: No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."

BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, the European Union and all close allies and international institutions to put pressure on Bahraini authorities to:

  • Immediately release Jihad Al-Sameea, Mohamed Hussain, Ali Hussain and all detained children in the prisons of Bahrain, and provide appropriate psychological rehabilitation following their release;
  • End the culture of impunity which allows for daily violations against children;
  • Hold accountable all perpetrators of human rights violations against children in Bahrain;
  • As a signatory, respect, uphold and implement the conditions of international treaties and conventions, including the International Convention for the Rights of the Child.

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