14 Sep 2012

Just weeks after approving a new law on childrens’ rights on 8 Aug 2012 [1] the violations against children in Bahrain have escalated seriously. At least 10 children have been killed since last year, hundreds were tortured and beaten, hundreds arrested and detained, even as young as 9 years. Other children were emotionally traumatized witnessing one or both of their parents killed, violently beaten, arrested and detained for months or seriously injured. They have also been suffering from the regime’s collective punishment procedures, such as randomly breaking into houses and the excessive use of teargas.
Extra Judicial killing of children

Hussam Al Haddad (16 years old) was killed by security forces on the night of 17th August 2012, according to an eyewitness and as confirmed by an official statement from the ministry of interior (MOI); AlHaddad was shot with shotgun pellets causing him to fall to the ground. The witness stated that AlHaddad got kicked repeatedly by men in civilian clothing while security forces stood idly watching. In the hospital family members and a BCHR representative were kept for hours before being allowed to retrieve his body for burial. In the Ministry of Interior’s statement about the killing of Hussam, they stated that security force officials were defending themselves and following legal procedures, calling the child a terrorist, they neglected to mention the fact that he was unarmed. In photos published next day of Hussam’s (16) body, birdshot injuries were visible on his left arm, back and left side of his body, as well as marks of severe beating on his back and shoulder. The location and depth of injuries indicate that he was shot at close range and that the shooting was intentional and not an act of self-defense [2] .

Hussam is one of 10 children killed by the security forces in Bahrain[3] :

1 Yahya Yousif Ahmed, 1 month old, died 5-Mar-12, Suffocation by tear gas 2 Yaseen Jassim AlAsfoor, 14 years old, died 20-Jan-12 Suffocation by tear gas 3 Sayed Hashim Sayed Saeed 15 years old, died 31-Dec-11 shot - tear gas canister 4 Sajida Faisal 5 day old, died 11-Dec-11 Suffocation by tear gas 5 Ali Yousif Badah 16 years old, died 19-Nov-11 Run over by a Police car 6 Ahmed Jaber AlQattan 16 years old, died 6-Oct-11 shotgun 7 Ali Alshaikh 14 years old, died 31-Aug-11 shot - tear gas canister 8 Mohammed Abdulhussain Farhan 6 years old, died 30-Apr-11 Suffocation by tear gas 9 Sayed-Ahmad Sa’eed Shams 15 years old, died 30-Mar-11 Shotgun

The Ministry of Interior confirmed responsibility of the murder of Hussam as well as some of the other children that were killed since the popular uprising, like Ali Al Shaikh and Ali Al Badah. It is claimed that investigations have been launched for a few cases, however, we have yet to see any official being held accountable for these deaths.

Arbitrary arrest and Detention

In the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) “Post-BICI Part II” report it was stated that 123 children have been arrested (26.6% of total arrests) with an average detention periods of 91 days. The numbers in the report were for the period of post BICI from March 2012 to 18 Jun 2012 when the BCHR report was published. For the couple of months post the publishing BCHR part II report, arrests of children was escalated to close to 100 children in around 2 months.

Abdulla K. , 17 years, was arrested on 22nd June 2012. He was at home with his family when riot police broke into his house and started to conduct a search. They asked his parents who was on their roof and before Abdulla’s father could answer, they beat him. Then they shouted at his mother when she asked why they were breaking in without a warrant. Abdulla and his brother were scared of being tortured and arrested. The two of them went to the roof and jumped to attempt to get away. He injured his leg and was arrested by the riot police. They made him walk on his injured leg which caused him great pain. He was slapped and threatened with a shotgun as he was taken away.

Sayed Ali Al Muhafdha, 16 years old, was arrested from 14th June 2012 until 13th September 2012. During this period he was severely beaten on the head and other parts of his body and was deprived of water for a day, according to his family. Sayed Ali was ill and because of the conditions in prison, his illness worsened. And while a doctor advised that he might have kidney stones and asked for him to be admitted, he was kept in prison and denied proper medical care until he was released [4] .

Salem Sultan is only 9 years old, the youngest child arrested in Bahrain. He was arrested on the night of the 29th August 2012, taken to Muharraq police station and interrogated. Salem was accused of burning tires. He was released after his father signed a pledge. The Ministry of Interior issued a statement about the arrest of Salem Sultan stating that he is 14 years old, while his official documents clearly show his date of birth is in 2002.

Ali Hassan Alqudaihi, 11 years old, was arrested on the 13th of May 2012 while he was playing with two friends outside, he was approached by a man who turned out to be from the police. His friends ran away, but he was paralyzed by fear and could not move. He was arrested for “illegal gathering” and allegedly blocking a road. He spent a month in prison before he was allowed out on bail to take his final exams. He was repeatedly beaten, humiliated and asked to identify other boys from his neighborhood. When an official inquiry was ordered by the country’s chief of public security Major general Tariq al-Hassan. The inquiry found that his arrest was due to him blocking a main road on three separate occasions in one afternoon. On 15th July 2012, he was released to be monitored by a social worker for a year but his charges were not dropped [5] .

Trials and injustice

During the state of martial law in Bahrain, otherwise coined as “National Safety” by the authorities, Hameed Abdulrasool and his friend got arrested. Their families heard nothing about their children until two weeks afterwards when they were called to collect them. In those two weeks, they were subjected to torture and humiliation. After their release, they received a summoning for trial. The military court sentenced them to 1 year imprisonment and BD200 bail to stop execution. Their lawyers appealed and the case was transferred to the civilian appeal court where the judge reduced their sentence to 6 months in March 2012. Hameed, who is 15 years old, did not turn himself in. He continued going to school and studying. On the 6th of September 2012, he was going to Saudi Arabia (KSA) for Umra (a religious pilgrimage) when he got arrested on King Faisal causeway which connects Bahrain to KSA. According to his lawyer, he is now in Jaw prison which is known for its poor conditions.

Abdul Reda Jameel Jaffer is a 13 years old boy in Intermediate school. On the 5th of September 2012, he was playing with other children in Sanabis village when he was taken by men in civilian clothing in a civilian car. They took him to a nearby youth hostel and was threatened to be beaten if he did not confess. Despite his age, the judge ordered his detention for 6 days. On the 12th September 2012, he has another hearing, his lawyer said that Abdul Redha talked to the judge about his academic excellence and his desire to go back to school. However, the judge extended his detention to an additional 7 days for further investigation on rioting and illegal gathering charges. On 12th September he was finally released.

Mirza Abdulshaheed Mirza (12), Mohsen Mohammed Al Arab (13) and Mohammed Abbas Al-Mulani (16) were followed by riot police while heading home from the mosque and arrested on the 7th of August 2012. Mirza and Mohsen were interrogated without the presence of a lawyer in the public prosecution department and the judge ordered a week detention. On the 14th of August 2012, the judge extended their detention for an additional week for being accused of “criminal arson”. In court the youngest detainee Mirza cried saying "I don't want to go to prison I can't sleep there". Their detention was extended again on the 21st of August 2012. On the 28th of August 2012, Merza (12) and Mohsen (13) were taken to court again, their detention was extended for a week for a fourth time. Mirza’s photo crying in the court made news and drew sympathy as he refused to move when he saw his mother falling unconscious after his detention was extended. While Mohammed Al Moulani’s (15) detention was extended 20 days. On the 4th of September 2012, Merza (12) and Mohsen (13) were finally released.

Photo: Abrar Omran is only 8 years old. She was summoned by the Ministry of Interior. She is innocently smiling to the camera, making victory sign and holding her summons paper to the camera.

More than 80 children are in prison at present. Schools just started while these children are in prison for false political charges. At least three minors have received very harsh sentences of up to 15 years imprisonment and are currently serving in the central prison of Bahrain. 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 willful 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 are being detained for several weeks.

The detention of children without any good reason, in the absence of a conviction for a crime, and against their interest as a student is contrary to several articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including 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): "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"

Excessive use of force

Ahmed Mansoor Al Naham, a 5 year old boy, was helping his father run his fish stall in Al Dair village in Bahrain, when they were attacked and shot at by riot police. The father tried to save his child by shielding him with his body. However according to BCHR members who documented the case and met witnesses, Ahmed and his father were shot at purposely twice with a shotgun from a close range [6] . Ahmed was injured with shotgun pellets in different parts of his body including his eye which caused bleeding. He was then taken to the Intensive care unit (ICU) at Salmaniya Hospital. On Thursday 14 June, he was transferred to Bahrain Defense hospital before being transferred again to a hospital in Saudi Arabia. Doctors’ attempts to save Ahmed’s eye failed. At the young age of 5, Ahmed has permanently lost sight in one of his eyes. On 20 August 2012, Ahmed was taken to Ireland for treatment [7] . His family sent his medical report to doctors in Ireland prior to their travel and were given some hope. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) has admitted in their statement[8] regarding the incident that they had shot at Ahmed and his father. They stated that the incident was an accident and blamed it on pro-democracy protesters.

On the 11th of July 2012, in one of the daily attacks of Bahraini riot police on villages, they shot at a car’s window. Hussain Ali, who is only 15 years old, was in the car when the shattered glass from the window deeply wounded his head. Like Hussain, Mohammed Yahya is 15 years old as well. He was on his way to an after school class when he saw riot police and out of fear, he tried to run, leading him to fall to the ground in a nearby farm. Riot police took him to a police jeep where they beat him up. His family were calling him and the police would answer the call but not talk. Hours later they called his family to pick him up.

Children have been victims of the regime’s use of excessive force against civilians since the start of the Bahraini revolution in 2011. More than 80 cases of injured children have been documented. At least 31% of those documented injuries were caused by beating and 25% of them were injuries caused by shotgun pellets. Furthermore, hundreds of children are exposed to toxic gas (teargas) on a daily basis and many cases of suffocation by teargas have been reported.

Emotional trauma

Many children have witnessed the arrest and wounding of their parents. Recently, BCHR member, Said Yousif Al Muhafdha, was arrested in a checkpoint while he was in the car with his two little daughters, 3 and 4 years. They asked him to stop at a checkpoint, as soon as he did 3 security force officers beat, punched and slapped him in front of his crying daughters. His eldest daughter said “they beat my father and pulled his hair” describing what they had witnessed.

Left: Maryam (7) , Right: Ali (4)

Human rights first asked some children in Bahrain to draw something from their experience; those drawings were assessed by clinicians with experience in trauma. Almost all the drawings assessed were of traumatic children. Dr. Judith Schaeffer assessment of Maryam’s (7 years) drawing, whose uncle was shot in the head, was that it “is overtly indicative of trauma. This child is experiencing heightened emotions, particularly fear, sorrow and anger. She appears to be in an acute phase of grief.” Ali is only 4 years old, Dr. Stuart Lustig explains his drawing saying “The dense, fern-like mesh seemingly dwarfs the human figures as if taking great pains to obscure a reality too horrible to witness.”[9]

Thousands of children have been effected emotionally from the violence they have witnessed, whilst living in their villages and seeing what their families and peers go through on daily basis.
The BCHR calls on the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other close allies of the Government of Bahrain to put pressure on the government to: 1- Immediately release all detained children who were arrested during the on-going protests in Bahrain 2- Drop all charges and sentences against children 3- Implement and consider the rights of child convention that Bahrain is a signatory to 4- Investigate all cases of extrajudicial killings of children, and holding the responsible security officials accountable

We appeal to children's rights organizations and United Nations to call on the Bahraini authorities to stop the violation children's rights in Bahrain

[1] iaa.bh [2] bahrainrights.hopto.org [3] docs.google.com [4] alwasatnews.com and bahrainrights.org/en/node/5412 [5] bahrainrights.hopto.org [6] youtube.com/watch?v=DMsPyTBeUXU [7] alwasatnews.com/3636 [8]alwasatnews.com/3569 [9] humanrightsfirst.org