Bahrain: Child held without charge in adult prison

The detention of a 16-year-old Bahraini boy in an adult prison has been extended for a further week despite the Bahraini authorities’ failure to bring any charges against him, which Amnesty International said violates international standards of justice. On 11 December, police raided the family home of Mohammad Mohammad ‘Abdulnabi ‘Abdulwasi in Sitra – an island east of the capital Manama – and arrested him, despite failing to produce a warrant. Family members present at the time allege that riot police broke the main door and took money and other possessions with them.Since his arrest, the 16-year-old has not been allowed to see his family or a lawyer, and his unlawful detention in Dry Dock Prison – a facility for adults – has been extended until 26 December. “It is absolutely shocking that 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,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “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 lawyer. Unless they can disclose the reason for his arrest and charge him with an internationally recognizable offence, he should be set free.”‘Abdulnabi ‘Abdulwasi’s family did not know his whereabouts for two days after his arrest. On 18 December he was allowed to call them and told them he was being held at Dry Dock Prison, but he has yet to be allowed a visit from relatives or a lawyer. No charges appear to have been brought against him and the exact reasons for his arrest remain unknown. Child detention concernsIn 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. “Children should always be held separately from adults, and the Bahraini authorities must protect all child detainees from torture or other ill-treatment,” said Hadj Sahraoui. “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.”