Six children are currently detained in Betelco Child Welfare Home after the Public Prosecution extended their detention on 2 February 2022. The children are detained on charges of “manufacturing and using inflammable devices, rioting, attacking public and private property, and illegal assembly,” according to the Public Prosecution Statement on 1 February 2022. The families were quite unaware of these charges before this statement. The children were transferred to Betelco Home on 5 January 2022 from Dar al-Karama, in which they were held for one week after their arrest on 26 December 2021. The children had been placed under surveillance since June 2021, and the Public Prosecution unjustifiably and arbitrarily ordered their detention last December.
According to the families, the children were first summoned to the Sitra police station on 10 June 2021 for interrogation in relation to “crimes” committed in January 2021, when they were under the age of 15. The children were questioned without the presence of a lawyer, screamed at, and intimidated when they denied the charges. They were transferred to the Public Prosecution where they were also questioned without a lawyer and put under surveillance for six months. It is unclear what kind of surveillance to which they were subjected. Between 10 June and 26 December 2021, the children were summoned at least three times for questioning. The families were not properly informed of the charges, and according to one of the boys’ father “the allegations changed over the course of the interrogations.”
On 26 December 2021, they were detained in Dar al-Karama after being summoned for questioning. After Dar al-Karama, they were transferred to Betelco Home, where they are currently being held. No family visits are allowed, and the children are permitted to make one phone call to family members per week.
According to Article 10 of the Restorative Justice Law for Children and their Protection from Maltreatment, “the child shall be guaranteed all the rights and guarantees established in the Criminal Procedure Code at all stages of criminal proceedings;” however, the children and their families were not properly informed of their charges in violation of Article 133 of Bahrain Code of Criminal Procedures. They were not provided access to lawyers during the interrogations that occurred between 10 June and 26 December 2021. Neither the families nor the lawyer was given an explanation for the current detention knowing that although the law allows the Court to place children who are “subject to endangerment” in social welfare institutions, the placement of such institutions is “the last available option and should be for the shortest possible period of time.” The lawyer for five of the children stated that the circumstances of the accusation are not completely clear. Moreover, there is no legal justification for preventing family visits to the six children.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern over the arbitrary detention of the six children and the unclear conditions of their detention. BCHR calls on the authorities to release the six children or clarify the reasons for their arrest. BCHR also calls on the authorities to allow family visits and ensure the children proper access to legal counsel.