Will Bahrain Convict an 11-year-old "Protester"?

July 3, 2012

Ali Hassan Bahrain
Ali Hassan could face jail time for allegedly "participating in an illegal gathering."(Photo Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/GettyImages)

This Thursday, an 11-year-old boy will find out if the Government of Bahrain truly considers him a security threat.

Young Ali Hassan was arrested by Bahraini police on May 13th on a street near both his home and the site of a protest. He was detained for 23 days before being allowed to see a lawyer, and he spent nearly a month in jail before being released.

He has been charged with “participating with others in an illegal gathering of more than five people, in order to disturb public security by way of violence.” The Guardian reports that if found guilty, Ali could be sentenced to up to three years in prison (take action here).

The case has drawn international media attention, with articles in CNN, the Associated Press, Time, RealClearPolitics, BBCAFP, The Independent, The Telegraph, and others.  Once again, the Government of Bahrain is in the spotlight for violating human rights.

According to his lawyer, Ali was just playing with two friends when police officers stopped the children and threatened to shoot them if they did not do as they were told. The two other boys managed to escape, but Ali was arrested and accused of intentionally blocking the street.  Following his arrest, he was reportedly moved between several police stations for a period of about four hours and interrogated.

Ali later told his lawyer that during the time he was alone, he became hungry and tired and eventually “confessed” to accusations against him.  The day after his arrest, he denied all accusations during an appearance before the juvenile prosecution, saying that he only “confessed” because police promised to release him if he did. On July 5th, young Ali and his family will learn the verdict in his case.

Is this any way to treat an 11-year-old boy?  Can such a young child truly be guilty of “illegal gathering” and “disturbing security?”

According to Bahrain’s own laws, the answer appears to be no.  Article 32 of Bahrain’s Penal Code states: “A person, who is not more than 15 years of age at the time of committing an act constituting a crime, shall not be held liable. In this case he shall be subject to provisions of the Juveniles Law.”

Not only that, but Bahrain’s treatment of Ali flies in the face of international human rights law.  The Government of Bahrain is a state party to the Convention for the Rights of the Child (CRC), which includes the following key provisions:

  • States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.
  • The arrest, detention, or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.
  • Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance.

The violation of Ali’s rights — including 23 days of detention without access to a lawyer —  comes against a backdrop of rising tension in Bahrain.  The Government of Bahrain has responded to largely peaceful protests with arrests, job dismissals, torture, and in some cases, harsh prison terms.  While not all protestors have been peaceful, many peaceful protestors are now in jail.  To date, not a single senior Bahraini official is publicly known to have been investigated for the many acts of torture, imprisonment, and even killings that have been documented.

You can help remind the Government of Bahrain that the world is watching.  Take action to protect young Ali Hassan’s rights today.

UPDATE: Bahrain keep charges against Ali Hassan but it looks like he has been spared jail time for now.  Read more.