Observations on Juvenile Detention
Public opinion in Bahrain was recently preoccupied with the issue
of the detention of a number of children below 18-year on security
grounds. The exact number of those detained and accused of unlicensed
assembly, the possession of fire arms and Molotov cocktails is unknown.
The number of detained children was discussed by newspapers and
MPs, which according to some estimates could be as low as 65 or
as high as 85. The Juvenile Public Prosecutor, Noora Al Khalifa
rejected these figures by saying that they were inaccurate, unverified
and could mislead the public. However, she did not give the exact
A number of factors brought this issue to light. It is obvious
that such children were involved in rioting and hence the following
objections are not directed at the nature of the charges but rather
on other issues, which include:
Objections directed at the manner in which they were detained
as it violated the law, because their place of detention was unknown
for days. The Government said that some were detained because of
their participation in riots.
There are also objections over time span of the detention. The
children spent several months in detention before being put on trial.
According to some reports, some of the children should have been
released immediately after the end of the investigation, until the
commencement of the trial.
It is alleged that the detainees were held in adult detention
centres and prisons. The Government denied this allegation or at
least denied some specific cases. Brigadier Mohammad Bomahmood from
the Ministry of Interior dismissed the claims and said that they
were kept in Juvenile care centres. These centres are under the
supervision of the Ministry of Social Development, which provides
suitable educational programs.
There were some criticisms directed at the Government for its
failure to comply with the International Convention on The Rights
of The Child, which it ratified in February 1992 and came into force
in March 1992. For example, the Government prevented children from
sitting their final exams, despite parents’ persistence. Noora Al
Khalifa believes that “the legislative and executive policies in
the Kingdom regarding children conform with international laws and
conventions. The procedures of the Public Prosecutor also conform
with these laws.”
Human rights activists also criticized the Government for its
lack of transparency in providing basic information to the guardians
of the children. Also, Government legal procedures were very slow
causing psychological and physical pressure to the detained children.
Cases involving juveniles are very sensitive and hence need to
be dealt with in a professional, accurate and fast manner. The human
side of these cases should be taken into consideration. We understand
that extremists incite children into violence in order to achieve
their political goals. We also understand that parents of those
children are not fulfilling their duties in guiding and caring for
their children. We also understand that any shortcomings in this
regard could have grave consequences.