Bahrain authorities jailed hundreds of children: Report

Some 607 children endured various forms of physical abuse while held in Bahraini prisons over the past decade, new investigation reveals.

Bahrain prison cell
Sources told Al Jazeera there are more than 150 children currently detained in Bahraini prison facilities [File: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters]

At least 607 children were subjected to various forms of torture by Bahraini authorities while in detention over the past decade, a new Al Jazeera investigation reveals.

The findings of the programme were based on leaked judicial reports as well as testimonies from children who described being threatened and, in some cases, physically abused during interrogations.

These interrogation sessions were often carried out without the children’s parents or their lawyers present, according to documents from the Bahraini public prosecution that were obtained by the programme.

Sources in the prosecution’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera there are more than 150 children currently detained in Bahraini prison facilities.

The investigation found that a handful of statements provided by children were changed to accept charges brought against them after initially denying any wrongdoing, supporting claims of having been verbally and physically abused by authorities to forcibly extract confessions.

In one recorded statement obtained by Al Jazeera, a young man who has been held inside a prison facility since he was 16 years old spoke about solitary confinement. He said those who are taken into solitary are often chained to the bed or have both their hands and feet cuffed.

“They often cannot shower or change their clothes,” the detainee said in the recording.

The programme also reported at least 193 children received prison sentences between 2011 and 2021. Some were given life terms, according to the findings.

In response to the Al Jazeera investigation, Bahrain’s interior ministry said there are no children imprisoned in Bahrain. However, it said some detainees aged between 15-18 years old are serving time in a special correctional centre.

In a statement, the ministry added that the children serving sentences were convicted in criminal and “terror” related cases, and had received fair trials.

Abdul Majeed Marari, Middle East director of the human rights group AFD International, said the findings of the investigation are powerful and could be used by international rights groups to highlight Bahrain’s imprisonment of children.

Bahrain – a majority Shia country ruled by a Sunni monarchy – is notorious for its human rights abuses. The small Gulf archipelago has been clamping down on dissent since 2011 when it quashed protests with help from neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain has prosecuted and revoked the citizenship of hundreds of people in mass trials.

The use of the death penalty in Bahrain has also dramatically escalated over the past decade, specifically since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, a joint report by anti-death penalty and human rights group Reprieve and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy revealed in July.

The Bahrain government has rejected allegations of human rights violations and denied discriminating against its Shia citizens.

Source: Al Jazeera