Foreign Office Minister “Misleads” Parliament over Arbitrary Detention of Bahraini Children says Human Rights Watch

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4 March 2022

  • Last month, former MENA Minister James Cleverly made an “erroneous” statement to Parliament on the cases of six children detained in a Bahraini orphanage, that “appears to condone the arrests and arbitrary detention of these children” and that “could place these children and others at risk of further abuse”, Human Rights Watch and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) wrote to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on 14 February 2022, the 11th anniversary of Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising, in a letter published today [see full letter here].

    • In a dispatch published today, Human Rights Watch stated that: “Despite mounting evidence of abuse, the United Kingdom government has yet to criticize or even retract statements that appear to support Bahrain’s abusive detention of children”

  • The new Minister for Asia and the Middle East, Amanda Milling, responded to a parliamentary question on the matter by welcoming the Bahraini law which facilitated the children’s detention and refusing to comment further upon the case.

  • A joint investigation by the two organisations found that the children, six boys ages 14 and 15, are being detained arbitrarily. They were repeatedly interrogated without the presence of a lawyer or their parents, who have not been informed of any charges or allowed to contest the boys’ detention. The children have been held for weeks during which they have been denied any family visitations, and are only permitted one 10-minute long call per week. Ironically the children are detained under a Restorative Justice Law for Children that Bahrain proudly enacted in 2021. The boys’ detention was renewed on 27 February and is set to be considered for renewal again this Sunday, 6 March.

  • The organisations wrote to the Foreign Secretary that “the Minister’s inaccurate statement […] misleads the UK parliament” and called on the government to retract the statement, correct the parliamentary record and press Bahrain to release the children immediately.

Bill Van Esveld, associate children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, commented: “Last year Bahrain touted its legal reforms for children, but locking up children in an orphanage instead of a jail is hardly an improvement when their detention is arbitrary in the first place. The treatment of these boys is a test of Bahrain’s respect for children’s rights, and so far the authorities are failing.”

Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, Directory of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) commented: “This is not the first time that the Minister has been asked to correct the record over the abuse of Bahraini children, after issuing one-sided biased statements that parrot the Bahraini regime and put children at risk. If the UK is serious about its credibility on human rights, it must end its damaging hypocrisy and call out violations committed by its despotic allies in the Gulf.”

Photo source: Twitter account of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, @tariqahmadbt, 14 February 2022: <>
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