11 March 2021 – A Bahraini court has handed seriously ill 16-year old Sayed Hasan Ameen and three other juveniles a 6-month imprisonment but granted a request by their lawyers for non-custodial sentence after being tried as adults on charges linked to anti-government protests in February 2020, despite credible allegations that they were denied due process throughout their arrest and interrogation and three of them were convicted without physical evidence on the basis of confessions extracted under torture from a co-defendant, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) stated today.
Charges against the four boys included burning tyres and possession of molotov cocktails during clashes with police during protests in the village of Kaharana on 14 February 2020, the 9th anniversary of Bahrain’s 2020 Arab Spring uprising. One child, arrested on 30th November 2020, told his family that officers tortured him and threatened to implicate a member of his family if he did not confess and implicate others in the alleged offence. He was interrogated at the Office of Bahrian’s Public Prosecution at 1am on 2 December 2020, without the presence of his lawyer or family members.
During a hearing last week, the boy told the judge that he was tortured into signing a confession implicating his friends. The remaining juveniles, including Sayed Hasan Ameen, were arrested on 11 February 2021, during a wave of arrests aimed at deterring protests against the 10th anniversary of Bahrain’s 2011 pro-democracy uprising. They were convicted in the absence of physical evidence on the sole basis of the aforementioned coerced confession.
According to medical records reviewed by Amnesty International, HRW and BIRD, Sayed Hasan suffers from serious complications linked to severe sickle cell anaemia including seizures and reduced cardiac function, which saw him hospitalised for most of November 2020, including seven days in intensive care. An investigation published on Wednesday by BIRD and Human Rights Watch reported that Sayed Hasan was denied access to prescribed medications for a total of eight days following his detention. Sayed Hasan’s condition renders him seriously vulnerable to COVID-19, cases of which are confirmed at Dry Dock Detention Centre where he is imprisoned.
Despite the gravity of Sayed Hasan’s situation, UK Secretary of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly has refused requests by concerned MPs to publicly condemn his detention. Cleverly also repeated assurances received from Bahrain’s government that “access to medical care for those in detention is provided in line with the constitution of Bahrain,” despite consistent reports of medical negligence against political prisoners in Bahrain by the United Nations and international human rights groups. A letter sent by BIRD to Cleverly on 3 March 2021 regarding Sayed Hasan’s case received no response.
The conviction of Sayed Hasan Ameen and his co-defendants Husain Abdulrasool Salman Abdulla Husain (16), Faris Husain Habib Ahmed Salman (17) and Mohammed Jaafar Jasim Ali Abdulla (16), follows a renewed government crackdown aimed at deterring protests commemorating the 10th anniversary of Bahrain’s Arab Spring uprising. BIRD and HRW have documented the detention of at least 13 other children since 7 February 2021, some of whom reported being beaten and threatened with rape and electrocution to coerce them into signing confessions.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), commented: “The conviction of a seriously ill child by Bahrain’s corrupt judiciary, relying solely on torture-tainted confessions without a shred of physical evidence, demonstrates how far Bahrain will stoop to stamp out all forms of dissent. However, I am particularly appalled by the callous response from the British government, who have once again accepted baseless assurances from the Bahrainis to avoid taking action against their abusive ally.”
Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), commented: “Despite relying on confessions extracted under torture, the judge nonetheless convicted these four schoolchildren. Today’s verdict is no surprise and reflects a wider system of injustice in the country. Bahrain’s allies in Washington must condemn this unjust persecution of children.
Sayed Hasan Ameen, 16, and two other boys, ages 16 and 17, were arrested and ordered detained on February 11 at a hearing before the Fourth High Criminal Court for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails. A lawyer was present, but family members were not permitted. Ameen’s family said that he and the other boys were taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate, and then to Dry Dock Detention Center. A fourth child has been detained since November 30, 2020 in the same case.
Ameen has medical complications due to sickle cell anemia, including a kidney infection, a lung infection, and heart problems. The authorities refused to allow his family to bring his medication, which he needs to take daily, until February 15, after his family submitted information about his medical condition to the court. Prison authorities failed to deliver the medicine until February 18, the family said. His medications included anti-convulsant drugs and antibiotics, both of which can have severe adverse health consequences if interrupted.
According to medical records shared by his family, Ameen was hospitalized for 26 days in October and November, including 7 days in intensive care, after suffering seizures and reduced heart function linked to sickle cell anemia. Ameen’s underlying conditions make him highly at risk of severe illness from Covid-19. The Interior Ministry has confirmed at least one positive Covid-19 case at the Dry Dock facility.
Ameen was also questioned at the Hamad Town police station in early 2020 about an alleged tire burning incident in 2019 and released without charge.