A Bahraini judge today convicted six boys, aged between 14 and 15, to one year in detention in a child welfare facility, in flagrant violation of their rights. The verdict by Judge Omar Alsaidi was based on confessions the boys gave during their interrogations when they were denied access to a lawyer or their parents.
The children were sentenced under Bahrain’s Restorative Justice Law for Children, which sets 15 as the minimum age of criminal responsibility. They were ages 13 and 14 at the time of the alleged offense.
Five of them were arrested on 27 December 2021, and the sixth on January 9, but they were not brought before a court or informed of the charges against them until February 20.
All six boys denied the charges.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy said: “This unjust conviction against children shows the brutality of Bahrain’s corrupt judiciary. It also reveals how shallow Bahrain’s promise on reforming the children law is. This was enabled by the cheering received from the US and UK over fake reforms.”
The authorities denied the boys family visitations for weeks and have so far denied their access to education in detention.
The children were convicted of throwing Molotov cocktails at a car near Sitra police station in January 2021 and participating in an unlicensed gathering of five or more people, which Bahraini law prohibits. The owner of the car said the damage was superficial and did not claim any damages, according to the prosecution case file.
Human Rights Watch and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy found that the boys’ detention is arbitrary and that the proceedings against them violated Bahrain’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and called for their immediate release. The groups also wrote to the government of the United Kingdom and called for its retraction and correction of statements that appeared to support Bahrain’s prosecutions of the six children.
“Bahrain’s criminal justice system has a long record of harming children to send a repressive message,” said Bill Van Esveld, associate children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The UK and other governments should ensure that their support to Bahrain is not being used to violate children’s rights.”