Children Behind Bars

Children’s rights are fundamental to the principles of justice and humanity, as enshrined in international agreements and conventions. In Bahrain, however, a distressing reality persists as children find themselves confined within detention facilities, facing numerous challenges that not only compromise their well-being but also breach the very international agreements designed to protect their rights. As part of its advocacy, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights examines the challenges confronted by children behind bars in Bahrain and highlights how their treatment violates various international agreements.

Bahrain ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991, granting the CRC the status of law in Bahrain and allowing its application within national courts. In accordance with the CRC, children under the age of 18 in Bahrain have the right to challenge rights violations in national courts, albeit through a parent or legal guardian. Similarly, Article 32 of the Bahraini Penal Code posits that “a person that is not more than 15 years of age at the time of committing a crime, shall not be held liable.” However, children as young as 10 years old have become subjects of reprisals by Bahraini authorities, occurring within the context of the continuous suppression of the pro-democracy and human rights movement.

Underage individuals are frequently arrested following their involvement in peaceful rallies or their proximity to nearby protests. Often detained without proper authorization, these minors are held incommunicado, denied access to legal representation during prosecution, and charged with offenses like unlawful assembly and possession of Molotov cocktails. Like the case of six children who were detained in the Betelco Child Welfare Home in February 2022, families are sometimes unaware of the charges pending against their children prior to Public Prosecution Statements. This impedes their ability to effectively defend their innocence. In an attempt to extract confessions, children detainees are also withheld from food, water, and sleep and are subjected to severe verbal humiliation, physical beatings, and sexual battery the likes of slaps; punches; and beatings in their genital areas.

Sometimes, children are outright forced to provide false confessions, like the case of Ebrahim al-Moqdad, who – after having a gun pointed at him – was taken to a burnt armoured vehicle where he was given a script to read confessing to burning the unit while being videotaped.

In response to the ill-treatment, and to request their inclusion in the restorative justice law, six of the detained children – including Muhammad Ali Adel and Habib Ali Habib – began a hunger strike earlier this summer.  We hope that their demands will be implemented in accordance with the international charter.  While human rights reports indicated that there are approximately 183 children in prisons, they may be included in the right of release, if implemented.

Voicing the concerns regarding the ill-treatment of children in Bahraini prisons, we call for the authorities to:

  • demonstrate their commitment to international agreements such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) by ensuring that the rights and protections outlined in these agreements are fully respected and implemented
  • provide for transparent legal processes and open communication in juvenile cases, including by promptly informing families of the charges pending against their children so that they can adequately organize legal representation
  • eradicate all forms of physical and psychological abuse against child detainees
  • guarantee access to legal representation throughout the prosecution process as fair trials and appropriate legal counsel can help prevent forced confessions and unjust outcomes.
  • Establish an independent mechanism to monitor detention facilities and an accountability system wherein those responsible for abuses against child detainees are held accountable through transparent investigations and appropriate legal action.