Security forces in Bahrain “routinely detain children without cause and subject them to ill-treatment that may rise to the level of torture,” a report by Human Rights Watch claimed today.
The Gulf kingdom has faced a series of anti-government protests since 2011 that have been brutally put down by government forces. Reports from victims, families and rights groups suggest that children are often targeted and subjected to similar forms of mistreatment as adult detainees, including beatings and threats of torture.
In one incident reported by the rights organisation, a group of 14 people, including nine boys under 18, were arrested earlier this month at a swimming pool in the suburbs of the capital, Manama. One of the boys claimed they were blindfolded, punched, and kicked by police before being taken to a detention centre, where officers tried to force them to confess to an earlier attack on police involving Molotov cocktails.
“The Bahraini authorities need to investigate urgently the allegations that children are being arrested arbitrarily and mistreated, and put a stop to it,” said Joe Stork, the Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Rights groups say the large number of arrests makes it difficult for them to keep track of how many juveniles are in detention, but the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights recorded 15 child arrests in August, while the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights recorded 22 such detentions since 1 August. Authorities in Bahrain did not respond to a request for comment tonight.