Ten-Year Old Speech Offenders: Bahrain’s New Violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Photo Credit: ADHRB

In early December, the Government of Bahrain arrested two children, Jehad Nabeel al-Samee, age 10, and Abdullah Yousif al-Bahraini, age 13, on charges of attacking police officers with stones and illegal gathering and rioting. On 6 January 2014, the government ordered the renewal of their detention, citing the children’s social worker’s failure to provide a report and the children’s political statements as the reason for their continued imprisonment. Although this is not the first time the government has targeted children in its crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, the arrest and imprisonment of a 10-year-old child for expressing political views marks a novel derogation of human rights in Bahrain and should be a cause of great concern for the international community.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child expressly forbids the prolonged arrest, abuse, and torture of children. Article 37(a) states that, “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” Article 37(b) further states that, “No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily,” and that arrests, “… shall only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.” Even if a ten-year-old were capable of expressing political views, Article 12 of the Convention guarantees him the right to be free from persecution resulting from his political opinion by stating, “State Parties shall assure to the child that is capable of forming his or her own views freely…” while Article 13 expressly states that, “The child shall have the right to freedom of expression.”

Although the United States has already suspended the shipment of crowd control weaponry, Bahrain remains a heavily supported ally in the Gulf.  According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Government has provided Bahrain with over $300 million in total of aid since 2003.  This continued assistance combined with a lack of accountability serves as tacit support of a regime that abuses the human rights of its children. Until the Government of Bahrain rectifies its human rights situation and honors its commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United States, its allies, and the rest of the international community have an obligation to hold the Bahrain government publically and privately accountable for its continued violations of basic human rights.

R. James Suzano, JD, is the Legal Officer at ADHRB.

الرجاء الضغط هنا لقراءة هذه الرسالة باللغة العربي