Bahrain Arrests Children in Run-up to Arab Spring Anniversary as Repression Intensifies

  • Two 13-year old children are facing up to 20 years in prison after being detained and interrogated over charges linked to protesting;
  • Family members informed BIRD that the children were subjected to hours of interrogation without their lawyers or parents present, raising concerns they may have been coerced into providing confessions;
  • Arrests appear to be aimed at deterring protests commemorating 10th anniversary of Bahrain’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising, with local activists reporting a further 18 arrests over past week;
  • The Ministry of Interior has also declared a confirmed Covid infection at Bahrain’s notorious Jau prison.

10 February 2020 – A Bahraini judge has ordered the detention of two 13-year old children for 7 days after they were interrogated by the public prosecution on 7 February, in what appears to be part of a crackdown aimed at deterring protests to mark the 10th anniversary of Bahrain’s Arab Spring uprising, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) stated today.

BIRD spoke with family members of Hussein Ayoob and Mohammed Rashid, both 13-years old, who stated that they were ordered by the public prosecution to bring their sons for questioning on 7 February, over arson charges linked to protests in their home village of Abu Qua last year. While Mohammed was interviewed in the presence of his lawyer, Hussein was interrogated without his lawyer or his parents present, despite his lawyer being in the building and notifying staff that she was waiting for the interview.

The two children were previously interrogated in late-December 2020, after their parents were ordered to take them to Hamad Town Police Station for questioning. Family members reported that police questioned Hussein for eight hours until the early hours of the morning, while police refused repeated requests from Husain’s parents that they be allowed to accompany their child during the interrogation. Mohammed’s family were also not present during his interrogation.

The children face up to 20 years in prison under Article 277 of Bahrain’s penal code on two separate cases. Bahrain’s police and judiciary are renowned for refusing to grant detainees access to legal representation, raising concerns that the children may have been intimidated into providing coerced confessions. Such irregularities violate Bahrain’s responsibility to guarantee access to legal counsel to persons suspected of a criminal offence, as outlined in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Bahrain is a signatory, as well as Articles 37 and 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that protect children from arbitrary detention and prosecution. 

Both children are expected to appear in court on 14 February 2021, the tenth anniversary of the beginning of Bahrain’s 2011 uprising, raising concerns that their prosecution is politically motivated to deter protesters from marking the event. Local activist media reported that at least 18 other individuals have been arrested over the past week, including 2 other children. Last night, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior also confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at Bahrain’s largest prison, after local media reported that at least 12 inmates had been infected with the virus.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD), commented: “Interrogating children without the presence of their parents or lawyers makes them vulnerable to coercion and violates international law. These boys should be at school, not hauled in front of prosecutors or dragged to police stations in the middle of the night. The timing of their prosecution seems to be the government’s way of sending a message that any efforts to mark the anniversary of the uprising will not be tolerated.”

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