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Human rights violations

Legal reforms in Bahrain have little effect in stopping violations

The Human Rights Watch said that the legal reforms announced in Bahrain have little effect on stopping the country’s massive violations.

The organization stated that despite mounting evidence of violations, the British government has not criticized Bahrain’s arbitrary detention of children or even retracted its statements that appear to support these measures.

Six minors are still arbitrarily detained in Bahrain for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails that slightly damaged a car next to a police station in Sitra in January 2021. They were 13 and 14 years old.

As none of them had a lawyer during interrogation, the Bahraini authorities prevented the detained boys from visiting family for weeks and did not inform their families of their alleged violations.

The Bahraini Judicial Committee for Childhood did not consider their case until February 20, when the children denied the charges against them.

In the past, their lawyers could not access the case files, and the committee rejected their requests to release the boys and hand them over to their families. They appointed a “social expert” to study the case. On February 27, the committee again postponed the hearing until March 6 and renewed the detention of the children.

“Bahrain is violating children’s rights under the Restorative Justice Act, which was announced last year,” Human Rights Watch said. The law improves some protections for children, but it still falls short in fulfilling Bahrain’s human rights obligations.”

“For example, the law does not guarantee the right of children to communicate with a lawyer and their parents during interrogation, and it also provides for the possibility of children being detained if they participate in unauthorized protests.”

HRW noted that instead of pressuring Bahrain on children’s rights, the British government praised it. On February 3, the government evaded parliamentary questioning about abuses in the case against the six children and praised the Restorative Justice Act for its supposed compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

British officials subsequently reiterated their troubling support for Bahrain’s law, such as the tribute to Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon during his meetings with Bahrain government officials on the 11th anniversary of Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising.

The international organization highlighted that international law prohibits the detention of children unless necessary as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. UNICEF has called for an end to the detention of children during the coronavirus outbreak.

Human Rights Watch and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy wrote to British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on February 14 to make things right. “We are waiting for a response.”

The international organization concluded that the British government should reconsider its uncritical support for the detention of children by the Bahraini authorities and call for real reforms now.

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