“Bahrain security forces routinely detain children without cause and subject them to ill-treatment that may rise to the level of torture,” Human Rights Watch said in a report this week.
“Rounding up kids, throwing them in jail and beating and threatening them is no way for a country to treat its children,” said Joe Stork, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “The Bahraini authorities need to look into these allegations and immediately call a halt to any arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of children.”
Information recently obtained from victims, family members, and local rights activists suggests that Bahraini authorities often hold children for long periods in detention and subject them to similar forms of mistreatment as adult detainees, including beatings and threats of torture. The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires governments to protect children from ill-treatment and torture, to give all child detainees – those under 18 – special protections and to separate them from adults in detention.
A human rights probe back in 2011 found that the U.S.-backed dictatorship in Bahrain has engaged in “systematic” torture since the start of Arab Spring protests several years ago.
But Bahrain has long engaged in torture in its time as a U.S. ally. One year before the democratic protests broke out, HRW released a report revealing torture including “electro-shock devices, suspension in painful positions, and beatings.” Many detainees also reported being threatened with rape or murder, or that their families would be harmed.
A confidential State Department cable was issued at the same time acknowledging the widespread torture, indicating the Obama administration was fully aware of the abuse, but continued unconditional U.S. support.
The people being tortured and beaten are being detained for entirely illegitimate reasons. The regime has outlawed protesting, specifically prohibiting “sit-ins, rallies and gatherings in the capital Manama.” It is also illegal to “incite hatred” against the security forces (whatever that means), and people can be thrown in prison for calling the king a “dictator” on Twitter (something that has happened to at least eleven people).
Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration has been mum about the vicious crackdown in Bahrain over the course of nearly three years now. The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is stationed in the tiny Persian Gulf island, giving Washington control over the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf, through which over 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil transits.