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Universal Children’s Day: Violations Against Children in Bahrain: An Ongoing Issue due to Impunity

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A Report by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights

 

Index:

 

1. Introduction

2. Extrajudicial Killings: Child Victims of the Authorities’ Use of Excessive Force

3. Injuries: Use of Indiscriminate Excessive Force by Security Forces

4. Arbitrary Arrests, Unfair Trials and Torture

5. Impunity in the Cases of Child Victims of Extrajudicial Killings since February 14, 2011

6. Other Violations

7. Recommendations

 

1 Introduction

On the Universal Children’s Day the Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern about the continued violations of the rights of the child in Bahrain. Children are continuously subjected to arrests, torture and excessive force that has resulted in multiple deaths at the hands of police. Authorities in Bahrain continue to choose security solutions as a response to the ongoing protests for rights and democracy.

The Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Maryam Al-Khawaja, stated:

“It is especially horrific to see severe violations like extrajudicial killings and torture take place against children in Bahrain. This is mainly due to the local culture of impunity fostered by the highest authorities in the Government of Bahrain; but also due to the international impunity enjoyed by the Government of Bahrain despite the ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in the country. Children are beaten, arrested during house raids, denied their right to education and a safe environment, tortured and sometimes even killed. Urgent international action and accountability are instrumental in putting an end to these violations, and forcing the Government of Bahrain to stop human rights violations against children and adults alike, but especially children who are the most vulnerable. Failure to do so means enabling these violations to continue.”

 

NOTE: It is important to note that the cases presented in this report do not cover all cases of violations against children in Bahrain, but are samples of the kinds of violations that continue to take place in the country. In addition, only cases and violations and cases that took place in the past year are highlighted in this report.

 

2 Extrajudicial Killings: Child Victims of the Authorities’ Use of Excessive Force

Children of Bahrain have been victims of the authorities’ use of excessive force to suppress peaceful protests. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights documented at least 16 cases of children under the age of 18 who have been killed as a result of the use of excessive force since Feb 14, 2011, with three deaths in the last 12 months.

On 9 November 2012, Ali Radhi, 16 years old, was walking with friends to Duraz village in an attempt to reach Duraz mosque for prayers. Security forces were preventing people from reaching the mosque. During their attempt to reach the mosque, Ali and his friends were chased by riot police. Ali was trying to get away from the police out of fear, when he reportedly ran into the highway and was hit by a civilian car which led to his death[1].

Qassim Habib, 8 years old, died on 26 January 2013 due to complications resulting from reported teargas inhalation which caused his death in less than two weeks[2]. Habib was suffering an underlying respiratory disease which made him vulnerable to teargas. Tear gas is excessively and deliberately used by authorities in Bahrain to suppress protests, a  method of collective punishment and as a weapon shot directly at peaceful protesters.

Hussain Ali Al-Jazeeri, 16 years old, died on 14 February 2013 as a result of getting shot with shotgun pellets at a close range in the abdominal area (copy of the death certificate). He was shot in Daih while peacefully protesting. He died in the ambulance before reaching the hospital. Al-Jazeeri’s family and witnesses informed the BCHR that Hussain was only carrying a flag when he was shot and killed by security forces[3].

 

3 Injuries: Use of Indiscriminate Excessive Force by Security Forces

Due to the indiscriminate use of excessive force children are victims of the use of excessive force by security forces when suppressing pro-democracy protests and collectively punishing residential areas. 

Ahmed Al-Naham

Ahmed Al-Naham, 5 years old, was injured on 14 June 2012 while he was with his father selling fish on the street in Dair village. Security forces indiscriminately shot at everyone in the street while chasing protesters, and both Ahmed and his father were reportedly shot twice with shotgun pellets, despite the fathers screams that he is accompanied by a child. Mansoor Al-Naham, Ahmed’s father, tried to shield his son with his body, but they both sustained multiple pellet injuries. Ahmed sustained a pellet injury in his left eye. Ahmed was initially taken to  Salmaniya Medical Complex then to Saudi Arabia, Ireland and Singapore. On 12 April 2013, the 5-year-old-boy underwent surgery to remove his left eye as the last medical option suggested by doctors[4].

On 16 August 2013, security forces attacked a home in Al-Kuwara after suppressing a peaceful sit-in in the village. Masked security forces ordered the family of Mansoor Al-Khawaja to go inside their home within ten seconds and when they failed to do so, they attacked those inside the house. They threatened the children inside the house that they will kill them. Moreover, they reportedly beat them including Noor Al-Khawaja, 8 years old, who was injured with a rubber bullet in her leg. On their way out, they shot a round of pellets in the courtyard which injured Fatima Al-Khawaja, 16 years old. Fatima had several injuries in the abdomen; three pierced her stomach, while another two settled under her skin. Mansoor Al-Khawaja’s home was then put under lock down by the security forces who would not allow anyone in, including BCHR vice president Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah who went there in an attempt to document what took place. It was not until midnight that Fatima was allowed to be taken to the hospital, after the whole family was made to go to a nearby police station where the father insisted on filing a complaint. By the time Fatima was transferred to the hospital, her health had deteriorated and she was vomiting blood. She was kept in the ICU for more than five hours. Her health further deteriorated after she was discharged. On the following day, 17 August 2013, she was summoned to the public prosecution on charges of illegal gathering and insulting the king[5]. The family told the BCHR that they were threatened that if the father did not withdraw the complaint his teenage daughter would be charged.

 

4 Arbitrary Arrests, Unfair Trials and Torture

Local and International Human Rights organizations have time and time again reported on arrests and torture cases of minors in Bahrain.

Tear gas attack inside Jabreya Secondary school

On[1]  10 October 2013, students in Jabreya Secondary School for Boys protested against the midterm exams timing which led to clashes between security forces and students after the first entered the school. It was reported that security forces used an armored vehicle and excessive force against protesting students. Witnesses stated that police searched student buses and at least one student was arrested. The Ministry of Education decided to suspend 37 students from the school for their involvement in the incident depriving them from their right to education. At least one student was tried and sentenced to six month’s imprisonment for illegal assembly[6].

 

Photo: Marks from beatings on one of the abducted children.

Three minors under the age of 14 told the BCHR that they were abducted on the 28 March 2013 around 11pm. They said that there was a protest in the village when security forces started collectively punishing the whole village by shooting excessive tear gas. The children sought shelter in a nearby house during the reported attack. They were seen by security forces, abducted and reportedly severely beaten inside police vehicle with batons and gun butts while verbally assaulted by use of derogatory terms about their religious sect. The beating marks apparent on their bodies at the time of giving their testimonies corroborated their story; with one of the minors showing cigarette burn marks on his arm reportedly inflicted during the abduction.[7].

On 21 March 2013, a Bahraini court sentenced 16 citizens to 15 years’ imprisonment and BHD 10,508 fine after charging them with the arson of a vehicle owned by the Ministry of Interior in June 2012. Some of those convicted in the case are children under the age of 18, including Ahmed Yousif, 16 years old, who was arrested during a house raid on 15 July 2012 and was reportedly beaten and tortured during arrest and interrogation. Also, Hussain Mohammed, 17 years old, was abducted by a civilian car on 10 July 2012 from his neighbourhood and he was subjected to enforced disappearance for several hours. The family stated that he was tortured in the police station and was threatened not to talk about his torture during family visits. Mohammed Jaffer, 17 years old, was arrested during a house raid by masked civilians and charged in a different case. He was reportedly severely beaten in front of his mother. The public prosecution ordered his release, however, when he was taken to the police station, he was charged in this case and taken back to custody[8].

On Monday 15 April 2013, Hassan Humaidan, 17 year old student from Al-Jabreya Secondary School for Boys, was called to the administration office where police officers arrested him and took him away in front of his fellow students. On the following day, students at Al-Jabreya school staged a protest demanding the release of Hassan. Security forces stormed and excessively tear gassed the school after being allowed by the school administration to enter. This resulted in suffocation and injuries amongst students and teachers[9].

Jehad Sadeq (right) and Ebrahim Al-Meqdad (left)

Jehad Sadeq and Ebrahim Al-Meqdad, both 16 years old, were the first children to be tried under the internationally criticised terrorism law. They were arrested on 23 July 2012, and subjected to enforced disappearance for at least 48 hours during which they were interrogated without the presence of their family or a lawyer. They were reportedly beaten and verbally abused during the arrest. On 4 April 2013, they received a harsh sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment based on confessions taken under duress. The court refused to investigate the claims that the confessions were taken in the absence of a lawyer, that the children were subjected to torture and that the defendants do not know each other. Both children are detained in adult detention centers with prisoners convicted in criminal cases[10].

Hussain Fardan, 17 years old, was arrested on 31 March 2013 reportedly after an ambush by civilian police in a civilian car. Hussain was with friends in a car when they were stopped. One of his friends who was released later said that a man approached them, pointed a gun at Hussain and threatened to empty the bullets in his head if they resisted. They were then taken to the Criminal Investigation Department and reportedly beaten on the way in the police vehicle. At the CID, Hussain was reportedly severely beaten with plastic hoses, kicked in the abdomen and face, was reportedly sexually assaulted and threatened with rape until he collapsed. He was forced to sign papers and was reportedly again tortured and beaten in the police station. His lawyer, Zahra Masood, said that he looked scared and confused when she met him. Despite the marks of beatings on his body, the prosecutor refused to take any steps to protect Hussein from further abuse and the General Attorney refused to open an investigation into the allegations made by the minor Hussein Fardan about being subjected to abuse and torture[11]. Hussain has been senteced to 18 years in prison on multiple charges under terrorism law including “detonating a bomb for terrorist purposes” and he is still facing further trials.

Nabeel Rajab, detained president of the BCHR, witnessed several children and youth being tortured by prison guards. Jehad Sadeq and Mustafa Al-Meqdad, both 16 years old, were two of the eight children tortured. They were then placed in solitary confinement for more than a week, during which their families did not hear from them[12].

Ali Faisal Al-Shofa, a 17 year old high school student, was sentenced to 1 year imprisonment for insulting the self-acclaimed Hamad Isa Al-Khalifa on Twitter. Ali was arrested at dawn on 12 March 2013 during a house raid. He was detained for two months pending investigation and finally released on BD100 bail on 8 May 2013. Ali denied his relation to the twitter account he was accused of posting the insulting tweet on[13].

Salman Mahdi, 13 years old, was arrested on 11 Aug 2013 near a shopping mall in Budaiya. Eyewitnesses said that there were no protests at the time, but security forces surrounded Salman while he was walking alone and arrested him. He was released on 12 August 2013. The family was contacted by the police station to bring him in for interrogation and when they did not, Salman’s uncle was contacted and threatened with a house raid to arrest Salman so they complied. He was kept in detention for 27 days and released on 10 Sep 2013. His family reported that Salman told them that he was slapped during interrogation[14]. He also added that he was repeatedly and severely beaten on his head and that he confessed to whatever they wanted him to say to avoid further torture.[15]

Hussain Al-Hawaj, 15 years old, was arrested on 7 December 2012 by civilian clothed security officers. He was taken to the public prosecution office at 3am without the presence of his lawyer or being allowed to contact his family. He was then transferred to the Dry Docks prison where his family visited him 10 days after his arrest. He was reportedly tortured, threatened and forced to sign papers. On 9 June 2013, Hussain was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment based on confessions extracted under duress[16]. On 18 November 2013 his sentence was reduced to 1 year in the appeal trial and he is due for release next month.

Ali Muslim Ebrahim, 15 years old, is another minor who was reportedly forced to confess under duress to false charges. He was arrested from his house on 8 September 2013; the officers who arrested him stated that his name was on a wanted list put out by the public prosecution. He was taken to Al-Hidd police station where he was reportedly beaten and forced to confess. He was taken to the public prosecution on 10 September 2013 and a decision was made to detain himfor 45 days pending investigation[17]. Ali suffers from diabetes for which he needs insulin injections and a special diet. He was kept in detention until 22 Oct 2013 when a court ordered his release.

Ali Hatem, 14 years old, was at a coffee shop with friends when he was arrested with five others on 26 August 2013. He was blindfolded and taken to the police station where he was reportedly beaten and electrocuted to force him to confess. He was accused with rioting and was the public prosecution decided to detain him for seven days pending investigation although he denied all accusations. On 3 September 2013, his detention was extended for another seven days. His family was allowed to visit him on 5 September 2013 for the first time. He is currently facing charges of illegal gathering and rioting[18]. He was kept in detention until 10 Sep when he was finally released.

Sayed Hassan Sayed Mohammed Shubber, 14 years old, was arrested on 17 September by security forces during a Shiaa religious celebration in Sehla. He was taken to Al-Khamis police station where he was questioned for nearly three hours about rioting and tire burning in Sehla village that took place on the same day. One of the police officers told him to be an informant and gave him a telephone number to call. He was finally released after reportedly being told that they would bring him back again the following day. On 18 September 2013, Sayed Hasan was taken to the public prosecution for interrogation without the presence of a lawyer. He was charged with burning tires and the prosecution ordered that he be detained for seven days pending investigation. On 25 September he was brought again before the Public Prosecution, who extended his detention for another seven days pending investigation[19]. After 2 weeks in detention, he was finally released on 2 Oct 2013.

 

5 Impunity in the Cases of Child Victims of Extrajudicial Killings since February 14, 2011

No official of any rank has been held accountable for any of the 16 deaths of children reported since Feb 14, 2011.[20] On the contrary, the fathers of these children have faced retaliation for continuously calling for justice for their murdered sons. On 26 Oct 2012, Jawad Al-Shaikh was arrested from a peaceful protest in Manama and was kept in detention for approximately a month before he was released. He was summoned and arrested several times after that. He is the father of 14 year old Ali Al-Shaikh who was killed with a tear gas shot to his neck from behind on 31 Aug 2011, the morning of Eid Al-Fiter. Jawad Al-Shaikh says that the authorities tried to force him to sign documents stating that Ali was not killed by regime forces. A few months later he was summoned by police for interrogation. Security forces have continuously raided the family's home and ripped pictures of Ali that hung on the wall. According to the Al-Shaikh family, security forces have constantly desecrated their son’s grave. Ahmed Al-Shaikh, the cousin of Ali Al-Shaikh, who was a witness of his killing, was arrested on January 5 2012. Ahmed has been charged with illegal gathering. Until this day, no official of any rank has been held accountable for the death of Ali.

 

6 Other Violations ..

Many children were deprived of their right to education when they were suspended for politically motivated reasons. Hesham Hasan, 8 years old, was suspended on 8 January 2013 from school and reportedly beaten by the members of the school administration for allegedly chanting political slogans. The suspension was enforced in accordance with the elementary school’s code of conduct set by the Ministry of Education in Bahrain, which violates both the Convention on Child Rights as well as the right to free expression. The school launched an investigation committee and interrogated the child without the presence of his parents. In addition to the interrogation, Hesham was beaten in front of his peers, causing him psychological harm[21].

 

7 Recommendations:

1. Immediately release all children detained, and provide them with rehabilitation and adequate medical treatment.

2. Put an immediate end to the culture of impunity which fosters an environment for the continuation of all types of daily violations, including violations against children.

3. Initiate steps of accountability for all those who have perpetrated violations, overseen, ordered and/or are administratively responsible for human rights violations in Bahrain.

4. Immediately stop all arm sales to Bahrain; especially crowd control weapons like tear gas and pellets which have been used to kill or injure protesters, including children.

5. Hold the Government of Bahrain accountable internationally for repeatedly violating the Convention on Child Rights which they are signatory to.

6. Provide compensation for children who have been victims of the violations of the Government of Bahrain.

7. Ensure a safe environment for all children to attend school and access to their right to education, without fear of arrest, beatings and/or humiliation.

8. Initiate amendments to the laws in Bahrain to ensure the protection of children from all harm and violations.

9. Change the legal age of minors to 18 rather than the current law which regards anyone above 16 as an adult.

 
 

 

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