[18 August 2014] -
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern over the ongoing targeting and prosecution of children in Bahrain by the authorities in blatant disregard to the government’s obligations to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly article 37 which states:
“States Parties shall ensure that: (a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;” - Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”
On 13 August 2014, the first high criminal court, headed by Shaikh Mohamed bin Ali Al-Khalifa, sentenced 14 youth to life imprisonment under counter-terrorism law for the murder of a policeman in Sitra, including two children under the age of 18;Nedhal Ali Hussain Al-Abood (16 years old, DoB: November 1997) and Dhaif Abdulnabi Dhaif (18 years old, who was 17 at time of arrest, DoB: May 1996).
According to the case details presented to the court on 6 July 2013, a group of people were gathering and rioting in Sitra. At around 10PM, a police officer was trying to remove barriers when an improvised explosive device killed him and wounded two other police officers  .
Less than 24 hours after the incident, security forces started a campaign of house raids in the area and arrested several youths, including Dhaif Abdulnabi Dhaif. Dhaif was arrested from his grandfather’s house where he was staying with his parents. His father was pushed by security forces, insulted and humiliated at the time of the arrest and Dhaif himself was beaten in front of his family. He was subject to enforced disappearance for around five days before his family received a call from him informing them that he was at Dry Dock detention center. The BCHR has received information that Dhaif was subject to torture and sexual abuse during his detention.
Although most defendants in the case were arrested shortly after the incident, Nedhal Ali Hussain Al-Abood was arrested more than two months later, on 24 September 2013 at 3 AM, when his home was raided by security forces who searched the house and confiscated mobile phones, a laptop and some cash. Nedhal was handcuffed and taken to a police vehicle, while his parents were told to follow the officers to al-Westa police station for further information regarding their child. However, when they arrived they were informed by the police that they had no information about their son at the police station. Nedhal was subjected to enforced disappearance for approximately two days following his arrest, the first contact was a short phone call during which he said that he was fine before the line went dead. His family was finally able to see him for the first time on 02 October 2013; they stated that he was visibly afraid and upset. He did not reveal any details of mistreatment to his parents but he said that he signed confession papers so he would not be taken to the Criminal Investigation Directorate again.
Both children were kept in an adult detention facility at the Dry Dock detention center from the time of their arrest, and through to the trial, although Nedhal was in a separate building within the adult detention centre that has been dedicated for children. They were tried as adults.
The handing down of a life sentence to children below the age of eighteen is a direct and blatant violation to article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The BCHR believes that the government of Bahrain continues to violate the agreed conventions as a result of the lack of accountability from the UN and the international community. Moreover, the number of children tried and sentenced under the internationally criticized counter-terrorism law is increasing, despite the fact that the law lacks the international standard principles of legality as it is vague and imprecise.
During the review of the Bahrain report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 2011, the Committee expressed concerns to the Bahraini government on previous cases of handing down life sentences to children below the age of 18  . However, the government of Bahrain has failed to meet its obligation to the convention which clearly bans, as per article 37, life sentences for children.
The BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, the European Union and all close allies to Bahrain and international institutions to put pressure on the Bahraini authorities to:
- Immediately abolish the life sentences handed down to children and guarantee their rights to a fair trial and provide appropriate psychological rehabilitation for the ill-treatment they have reportedly been subjected to;
- As a signatory to the International Convention for the Rights of the Child, respect, uphold and implement the conditions of the international treaty.