Open Letter to UN Special Representative of Secretary-General on Violence against Children, on the Occasion of the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

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In 2015 alone, BCHR documented 237 cases of minors who have been arbitrarily deprived not only of their freedom, but also of innocence and childhood, held in inadequate facilities, in poor and degrading conditions, and who are victims of inhumane treatments.


June 4, 2016

Ms. Marta Santos Pais
Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children



Dear Ms. Pais,

On the UN International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression,
the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) wishes to express its deep concern over the deteriorating situation of child political prisoners in Bahrain, hoping to gain your support in urging Bahraini authorities to release them, and to end the practice of subjecting minors to unlawful arrests, systematic torture and ill-treatment in the Bahraini penal system.

Since the 2011 violent crackdown on peaceful democracy protests sweeping the entire country, the situation of human rights in Bahrain has dramatically worsened, affecting every segment of the society. Minors, as young as 10, have since become the target of retaliations by Bahraini authorities, as part of the ongoing repression of the pro-democracy and human rights movement.

BCHR, together with Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), has been able to document cases of minors arrested without due process, tortured under interrogation and unlawfully jailed alongside adult inmates, a dark reality of Bahraini retaliation tactics, transforming even the society’s most vulnerable and in need of protection into state enemies in order to intimidate even peaceful opposition to their authoritarian regime.

According to the Bahraini Penal Code, Article 32, “a person that is not more than 15 years of age at the time of committing a crime, shall not be held liable.” And yet, BCHR continues to document cases of arbitrary arrests, detention and physical as well as mental assault on children below the age of 15 by security forces. (See Annex below for sample cases.)

Many of these minors have been arrested following their participation in peaceful rallies, and even for their mere proximity to protests taking place near their residences. Frequently arrested without a warrant, teenagers and minors are more often than not held in incommunicado detention, i.e. their family is not given notice of their arrest, or communication between them and their children is prevented, while defendants are not allowed to  access the services of  a lawyer or have a legal representative during public prosecution. Charged on various grounds, ranging from illegal gathering and rioting, to destruction of properties, attacks on police officers and possession of Molotov cocktails, these children are impeded from properly defending their innocence.

Based on their testimonies, once they are brought to various police stations or to the infamous Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), teenagers and minors are subjected to food, water and sleep deprivation, to severe verbal humiliations, to incessant beatings e.g. slapping, punching, beaten in their genital areas, and even to sexual threats and assaults. Under this intimidating regime, the minors agree to sign false confessions of their alleged deeds, which are then used in public courts to issue their sentences. In most cases they are taken to Dry Dock Prison or Jaw Prison, to either wait for their trial or serve their sentences alongside adult inmates.

The lack of due process is sadly a common practice applied to all political prisoners in Bahrain; the fact that minors are forced to undergo such practices only serves to illustrate the severity and scale of mass bullying to which the Bahraini government is subjecting its own people. We continue to note the escalation of arrests, torture and ill-treatment under detainment of teenagers and minors at the hands of Bahraini security forces, in absence of due process and over politically motivated charges


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* Total of Arbitrary Arrests in Bahrain during 2015

As a signatory party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) since 1998, Bahraini authorities should “take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever […] may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Furthermore, Bahraini authorities are acting in violation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified in 1992. Accordingly “no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. [Nor] shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; [e]very child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age.”

Moreover “[e]very child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.”

BCHR calls on the Special Representative of Secretary-General on Violence against Children and all close allies and institutions, to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Release all child and teenage political prisoners, and end any form of physical or mental retaliation tactics to which these minors are being subjected;
  • End the systematic violence during arrest and detention, in order to extort confessions, and enable access to a fair trial;
  • Observe International norms and standards, ensuring every child a decent life and full respect for his/her dignity; and
  • Offer adequate support to victims of unlawful arrests, torture and detention, through rehabilitation.


CC: Sven Jürgenson, President, UNICEF

       Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR

       Helle Thorning Schmidt, Chief Executive Office, Save the Children




In this annex, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) would like to draw Your attention to individual cases of abuses that have been documented, in cooperation with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), about children in the Bahraini detention system.

Jehad Nabeel al-Same’a, age 10.

Bahraini police initially arrested Jehad in December 2013 as he played near his grandfather’s home. They charged him with attacking policemen, vandalizing police cars, gathering illegally and possessing a Molotov cocktail. Officials detained him for 43 days. After his release, he was re-arrested in May and sentenced to six months in prison.

Ali Husain Abdulla Ahmed, age 16.

On 1 August, 2014, police chased Ali to his grandmother’s house and arrested him. They did not present a warrant and based the arrest on Ali’s proximity to clashes occurring in the area. Security forces transported him to the police station, and during the detention they beat him all over his body and humiliated him. Ali is now held at the Dry Dock detention center where he awaits trial.

Nedhal Ali Hussain al-Abood, age 16.

On 24 September 2013, Bahraini authorities arrested Nedhal from his house. They did not present an arrest warrant. They transported him to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), where he was not allowed to get in contact with a lawyer. During his detention at CID, Bahraini security officers abused him. Nedhal told his parents that he signed a false confession in order to avoid returning to CID. On 13 August 2014, the Bahraini Criminal Court sentenced Nedhal to life imprisonment. An appellate court later reduced his sentence to 15 years in prison.                                   

Ebrahim Ahmed Al Muqdad, age 17.

Ebrahim was arrested on 23 July 2012, at the age of 15, following clashes in Bilad al-Qadeem. After he was transported to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), his family was not given notice of his arrest for two days. During his detention at CID, security officers tortured him. They beat him with police batons and their bare hands, sexually harassed him, shocked him and deprived him of sleep, food, and water. They pointed a gun at his head and told him to confess. Denied access to a lawyer, Ebrahim was sentenced to 10 years in prison, on charges of allegedly murdering a policeman, stealing a police vehicle, burning a military armored vehicle, illegal gathering and possession of Molotov cocktails. Ebrahim is now serving his sentence at Jaw prison, making him the youngest political prisoner prosecuted under a terrorism law internationally.

Read their full stories here.