Bahrain, children arrested and beaten in democracy protests
The abuses linked to recent demonstrations marking 10 years since the Arab Spring. Activist groups report threats of rape and electroshock. A policeman beat a 13-year-old in the head, a 16-year-old is still in custody despite serious health problems.
Manama (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Bahrain security forces beat and threatened a group of children with rape and electroshock, after arresting them in connection with last month's protests to coincide with the anniversary of the pro-democracy riots in 2011.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (London based Bird) report that at least 13 minors between the ages of 11 and 17 were arrested in mid-February on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the demonstrations.
Asked by Reuters, the Manama government declined to comment on the allegations. In an official note, the government stated that it takes the protection of human rights in a "very serious" way and that it applies the "zero tolerance policy" to those who abuse or violate the legal system.
In the complaint, the two activist groups explain that " “Five children, arrested on Feb. 14-15, said that police from the station beat, insulted, and threatened them with electric shocks from a car battery." £An officer hit a 13-year-old on his head and threatened to rape him, give him electric shocks, and beat his genitals."
In some cases, Bahraini police arrested children for "burning tires or blocking roads" on the day of their arrest. Other reasons that led to the arrest of minors include vandalism, placing fake bombs and throwing Molotov cocktails in November 2020 in the context of street protests.
Four of the detained minors are still under arrest in a detention center, including a 16-year-old with serious health problems. A government representative says that, in the case of minors, the decisions made by the criminal justice system of the Gulf nation weigh "the best interest of the individual child" combined with "rehabilitation and reintegration into society". Activist groups reply by denouncing the absolute lack of an independent judiciary and accuse the security forces of having committed torture and other forms of ill-treatment with impunity.
Bahrain is a Gulf monarchy ruled by a Sunni dynasty in a country where the majority of the population (at least 60-70%) is Shia and want constitutional changes and social and economic rights. In 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring, riots broke out that the king of Bahrain – a US ally supported by Riyadh – quashed thanks to Saudi military aid.