New Minors’ Bill, “Political Coverup” of Child Arrests and Deaths in Bahrain
2016-10-26 - 2:01 am
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The Bahraini Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa commenced talks on the new bill for minors entitled, "Reformative Justice for Children and Protection from Maltreatment". This comes as Bahrain witnesses the highest number of child arrests and torture cases in light of the ongoing political crisis since 2011.
Over a month ago, a citizen managed to take photos of detainee Ibrahim Al-Mokdad who was arrested when he was under 15 years old. The upsetting photos showed Ibrahim with his hands and feet cuffed with chains, walking with his back arched forward.
Reports by Bahraini human rights organizations revealed that there are over 250 detained children and students in Bahraini prisons according to 2015 statistics. All of them were detained on political grounds and some are still being prosecuted under the Terrorism Law.
The Bahrain Human Rights Observatory indicated that November 2015 witnessed the highest rate of child arrests, as 100 children were taken into custody during that period. Meanwhile, 9 human rights organizations announced in a unified statement issued on November 20 that the authorities, since 2011 and to date, have "violated children's right to safety and protection, by killing more than 10 children under 18 years of age and imprisoning more than 1,500."
A report released by the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society in May 2015 revealed that 245 cases of child arbitrary arrests were recorded in 2014 and that the total number of children arbitrarily arrested since the eruption of the February 14 uprising in 2011 until 2014 reached 727, including 3 females.
On September 24, 2016, the Minister of Justice chaired a consultative meeting on the draft law "Reformative Justice for Children and Protection from Maltreatment" held in the judicial and legal studies institute in the presence of a number of judges, Public Prosecution officials, representatives of the Ministries of Interior, Education, Labour, Social Development, Youth Affairs and Sports and Information Affairs. During the meeting, the Justice Minister said that these discussions will be extended to include the civil society institutions concerned with children.
The minister highlighted that they made use of the participation of experts from well-known institution to prepare this draft law in a manner that complied with the UN guidelines and standards for children's justice, adding that the main aim behind this project is to find additional reformative and alternative measures that suit the children's needs. However, the minister did not specify who the experts were and to which institution they belonged.
According to the draft law, the minister said that reformative courts are to be established in Bahrain to look into the criminal cases committed by children under 15 years of age. The minister added that two social experts, assigned by the court, are to assist the judge, noting that the verdicts can appealed.
The new law stipulated the establishment of a "judicial committee for childhood", that specializes in cases of children exposed to danger or maltreatment.
However, the situation in Bahrain completely contradicts in reality with the law. For children in the island kingdom are treated like adults. They are arrested, tortured and tried over charges that do not suit their ages. They face the same charges as adults such as inciting hatred against the regime and the overthrow of the regime, assembling, attacking security forces, acquiring Molotov bombs, as well as terrorism-related charges.
Bahraini children were not spared from the military courts that were erected by the authorities during the "National Safety" period declared in 2011. Ali Abdulkarim Salman (16 years old) were tried in a military court and judge Yousif Rashid Flaifel sentenced him to 15 years in prison.
In 2012, Ibrahim Al-Mokdad (15 years old) and Jihad Al-Habashi (16 years old) were sentenced to 10 years in prison over charges of setting an armored vehicle on fire under the Terrorism Act. In 2014, Jihad Al-Samei (10 years) was held in juvenile prison over assembling, rioting, damaging two interior ministry vehicles and assaulting a public officer under the same law as well.
Human rights groups' statistics unveil that at least 27 fetuses died in their mothers' wombs between 2011 and 2014, as a result of tear gas. Meanwhile, a number of children died due to inhaling large quantities of the toxic gases. Among these deceased children were: Yassine Al-Asfour (14 years old) and Kassim Habib (8 years old) who died in 2013.
Ali Al-Sheikh (14 years old) died after a tear gas canister was fired at him in 2011, whereas Ahmad Al-Naham (5 years old) lost his left eye in 2013 after a shotgun pellet struck his eye while he was with his father selling fish. In the same year, Fatima Al-Khawaja (15 year old) sustained injuries from shotgun pellets that hit her in the stomach and chest while at home. She was admitted twice to the hospital due to severe bleeding. In 2014, Sayed Mahmoud (14 years old) passed away after the security forces targeted him with a shotgun from a close distance. In 2015, Mohammad Al-Sawad (13 years old) sustained a shotgun wound in his left eye which he lost as a result. He then underwent surgery in an attempt to save his right eye.
Child deaths reached 24 between 2001 and 2014. These children died in various conditions; some inhaled toxic gases, some were targeted with shotgun pellets in critical parts of their bodies during peaceful protests and some were deliberately run over and crushed to death.
Martyr Sayed Ahmad Shams (14 years old) was the first victim after the crackdown on protestors in the Pearl "LuaLua" Roundabout. He passed away after he was run over by a security force vehicle. Two other youths Ali Abbas (16 year old) and Ahmad Al-Mosjen (17 years old) passed away in a mysterious incident after the car they were riding exploded in 2014.
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