Amnesty International has condemned the Bahraini authorities’ detention of a 16-year-old boy in an adult prison in violation of international human rights standards.
The teenager, Mohammad Mohammad ‘Abdulnabi ‘Abdulwasi, has already been detained for over a week - and this has been extended to 26 December - despite the Bahraini authorities’ failure to bring any charges against him. He is held in the country’s Dry Dock Prison, a facility for adults.
On 11 December Bahraini riot police raided ‘Abdulnabi ‘Abdulwasi’s family home in Sitra - an island east of the capital Manama. During the raid, the police apparently broke the main door and took money and other items from the house. ‘Abdulnabi ‘Abdulwasi’s parents and younger brother were in the house at the time of the arrest. His family said police asked for an electricity bill and while they were looking for it in another room their son was taken without their knowledge.
His family say they did not know their son’s whereabouts for two days, during which time they asked about him at police stations, the Public Prosecution Office and the Criminal Investigation Department. Yesterday ‘Abdulnabi ‘Abdulwasi was allowed to phone his family and told them he was being held at Dry Dock Prison, but he has yet to be allowed a visit from his family or a lawyer. No charges appear to have been brought against him and the exact reasons for his arrest remain unknown.
In the past few months, a growing number of 15-to-17-year-olds have been held in adult prisons and detention centres in Bahrain. Some sources put the number as high as 80. Many of these children were arrested during demonstrations, where they were accused of “illegal gathering” and rioting. In some cases, they appear to have been targeted and punished solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Some of the child detainees have alleged they were beaten during their arrest or on the way to detention, and some have also been forced to sign 'confessions'.
Under international law, anyone under the age of 18 is a child, and children suspected of a criminal offence should be treated according to the rules of the juvenile justice system.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said: “It is absolutely shocking that the Bahraini authorities broke into this boy’s house, detained him unlawfully and are still holding him in an adult prison, despite never bringing any charges against him.
“Mohammad Mohammad ‘Abdulnabi ‘Abdulwasi should not be treated as an adult before the law, and the authorities must immediately grant him access to his family and a lawyer.
“Unless they can disclose the reason for his arrest and charge him with an internationally recognisable offence, he should be set free.
“Children should always be held separately from adults, and the Bahraini authorities must protect all child detainees from torture or other ill-treatment.
“The Bahraini authorities’ disregard for international juvenile justice standards is just another sad indicator of the ongoing deterioration in the country’s human rights situation.”