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Call on King Hamad to release all child political prisoners in Bahrain

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Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy ruled by the al-Khalifa family. While elections do occur for the legislature, the King holds the ultimate authority. Political parties are banned in the country and members of opposition blocs are often targeted for being critical of the government. Many of the leaders of the opposition remain in jail or continue to be harassed by the government.

In 2011, over half of the population of the tiny gulf kingdom began to protest structural inequalities, corruption, oppression, and a lack of government representation. In response, the Bahraini government dispatched security forces to quell protests, leading to thousands of arrests, hundreds of injuries, and dozens of deaths. Laborers and union workers were fired from their jobs for joining the peaceful protests, while medical professionals faced politically motivated charges for discussing the horrific injuries they witnessed when aiding injured protesters. From athletes to lawyers, and students to nurses, the government targeted all who dared express a dissenting voice through targeted media attacks, military trials, home raids, arbitrary detention, and even extrajudicial killing.

Minors in Bahrain

The Bahraini government continues to target young children. Protests still occur almost every day in the Kingdom as the government has taken further measures to suppress any popular movement. In an attempt to stamp out any form of dissent, Bahraini authorities have transformed preteen and teenage citizens into enemies of the state and subjected them to maltreatment at all levels of the legal system.Some of the children targeted by the government participated in pro-democracy protests, while authorities detained others at random. Police have accused, and judges have convicted, children on charges of illegal gathering and rioting, destroying property, attacking police officers, damaging police vehicles, and possessing Molotov cocktails. Due to Bahrain’s purposefully opaque legal system, the intimidation of witnesses, and the lack of accountability for both judges and prosecutors, these children cannot properly defend their innocence, and their families cannot contest these claims by presenting evidence and testimony as one would in a free society.

The Bahraini prison system is notorious for abusing its adult inmates; that children are kept in the same facilities is cause for concern.  Bahrain’s prisons are extremely overcrowded, and often lack adequate facilities for ventilation and sanitation. Prison officials have denied medical care to adolescents injured in the course of their arrest, and judges routinely extend pre-trial detentions without cause, cementing their arbitrary nature. Courts try children as adults and may imprison them alongside adult offenders, further endangering their physical and psychological well-being. Imprisoned children are often denied access to education; even when children are released from prison, they often miss significant schooling, often leading to decreased career prospects throughout the rest of their lives.

Authorities have fully institutionalized the torture of child suspects. Beatings are routine, as are threats of sexual violence. Authorities continue the beatings until they extract forced confessions; repeated assaults and unremitting verbal abuse quickly break the child’s will to uphold his innocence, and many confess under extreme duress.

In light of these abuses, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) asks you to sign this petition to the King of Bahrain demanding the release of all child political prisoners, and an end to the systematic use of abduction, arbitrary detention, and torture on Bahraini juveniles.

 



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