07 June 2012

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses grave concern over the continued targeting of children with arrest and detention, even those below the age of 15.

The BCHR has received information that the authorities have detained an 11 year-old child Ali Hasan Alqudaihi for more than 20 days now on charges of “illegal gathering”. He is currently the youngest detainee in the prisons of Bahrain.

On 13 May 2012, 11 year old Ali Hasan Alqudaihi was arrested on the street in his hometown Bilad Alqadeem by security officials in civilian clothing and driving a civilian car; he was taken to the Nabeeh Saleh police station. The eleven year-old stated that he was beaten and humiliated at the time of his arrest. He was charged with “illegal gathering” and detained at the juvenile detention centre as per an order from the juvenile court’s judge, who has extended the detention period into its 3rd week on 4 June 2012. The child has not yet been found guilty of the alleged crime, but he has been already been detained for over 20 days now, and kept away from his home and school during the period of the final exams.

Last month, the BCHR has reported another 2 cases of detention and ill-treatment of children below the age of 15 at police custody. Records show that over 60 children under the age of 18 are currently held by the authorities. At least three of these minors received very harsh sentences of up to 15 years in prison. These sentences were handed down by a military court which has been criticized for its general incompetence, conducting trials with insufficient grounds for prosecution, and a wilful ignorance of the torture allegations brought forth by the defendants.

Minors below the age of 15 are not criminally responsible in the eyes of the law in Bahrain, however, they are often being arrested from areas of protests and can be detained for several weeks.

The detention and ill-treatment of a child without an immediate and good cause, in the absence of a conviction of crime, and against his interest as a student in the period of final exams is in contrary with several articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which includes Art(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." , Art(37): "States Parties shall ensure that: (b) 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;"

The BCHR demands the immediate release of 11 year-old Ali Hasan Alqudaihi and all other detained children who were arrested during the on-going protests in Bahrain, and to drop all falsified charges against them. We appeal to children's rights organizations and the international community to call on the Bahraini authorities to stop violating children's rights.