Bahrain: Two children Receive Harsh Sentences of 10 Years Imprisonment Based on Internationally Criticized Terrorism Law
10 April 2013
The Bahrain Center for Human rights expresses grave concern regarding the recent harsh sentences passed by the criminal court on two children who stood for trial under the internationally criticized terrorism law. Ebrahim Al Muqdad and Jehad Sadeq were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment based on confessions reportedly extracted under torture. Both children have already been in prison for more than 8 months.
On 4 April 2013, the High Criminal Court issued a verdict sentencing Jehad Sadeq Aziz Salman (16 years old) and Ebrahim Ahmed Radi al-Moqdad (15 years old) to 10 years imprisonment under the vague terrorism law for alleged charges of “burning an armoured vehicle”, along with another five persons who were sentenced between 10 and 15 years imprisonment. The families were not allowed into the courtroom for the reading of the verdict. Ebrahim and Jehad were tried at the criminal court instead of a juvenile court. Lawyer Zahra Masood, who represented Jehad Sadeq in this case wrote:
“The case lacks any evidence except confessions taken under duress. To add to that, the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses were contradictory and there was no visual evidence of the charges.”
Furthermore, the court refused to investigate the claims that the confessions were taken in absence of a lawyer, the torture, and that the defendants do not know each other. Both Ebrahim and Jehad denied all charges. They are both imprisoned in an adult detention centre with prisoners who are convicted in criminal cases.
The two children were arrested on the 23rd of July 2012. They were both subjected to enforced disappearance after an attack using excessive force by riot police on a pro-democracy peaceful protest in Bilad Al Qadeem. The families of Ebrahim, Jehad Sadeq and others who had disappeared did not know the whereabouts of their sons for up to 48 hours, and when approaching different police stations in the area, they were told repeatedly that they did not know anything about them. On the 25th of July 2012, after 48 hours of search, both families received calls from their sons who told them that they were in the Dry Dock prison.
Ebrahim al-Moqdad told his family and a member of the BCHR documentation team in a phone call that he was beaten at the time of his arrest and that the security forces attempted to strip him of his clothes and sexually assault him but he resisted. A gun was pointed at him and another gun was put against his ear and the trigger was pulled. Ebrahim did not know that the gun was empty of bullets. He added that he was then taken to a burnt armoured vehicle where he was given a script to read while being videotaped; confessing to burning it.
Ebrahim al-Moqdad was interrogated at Qudhaibiya police station by officer Isa Al Majali, who was been accused of torture in several cases, who reportedly insulted and cursed him. He was blindfolded the entire time, handcuffed and was made to lay on the ground and not allowed to move, sit or sleep. On the 25th of July 2012, Ebrahim was taken to the CID for further questioning and he said that they threatened him to not speak about the torture and threats he had endured. Finally, he was taken to the public prosecution department where he was interrogated without the presence of his lawyer; the lawyer was called to attend hours after the completion of the investigation.
Jehad Sadeq said that he was beaten with the butt of a gun and slapped during his arrest by riot police. He was taken to Qudhaibiya police station where the same officer, Isa Al Majali, interrogated him. Jehad was reportedly slapped, insulted and cursed by Al Majali and was made to stand in a corner for hours. In the public prosecution department he was forced to sign papers without being allowed to contact a lawyer. He was then taken to the Dry Dock prison.
Ebrahim and Jehad were kept in detention for almost 2 months before their trial started. They were charged under the terrorism law which is condemned by many international organizations including the UN experts for many reasons including:
“The definition of terrorism is overly broad since there is no requirement of specific aim to commit a terrorist act and some acts are deemed to be “terrorist” without the intention of causing death or serious bodily injury – thus this definition goes against several human rights instruments” (see http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/3449 )
Ebrahim Al Muqdad’s mother has expressed concern regarding the health of her son. She told the BCHR that Ebrahim is suffering from calcium and vitamin deficiency, thyroid problems, osteomalacia (bone softening) and idiopathic scoliosis which causes him chronic pain and may lead to complications without treatment. His mother appeals for her sons release to receive proper medical treatment that is needed for his conditions.
We would like to remind the authorities in Bahrain of articles in the Convention on the Rights of the child which the Government of Bahrain acceded in 1992:
Article 37: "States Parties shall ensure that:
(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;" (b) "No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time". Also, article (40) states that Every child alleged as or accused of having infringed the penal law has at least the following guarantees: “(iii) To have the matter determined without delay by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body in a fair hearing according to law, in the presence of legal or other appropriate assistance; (v) If considered to have infringed the penal law, to have this decision and any measures imposed in consequence thereof reviewed by a higher competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body according to law;” Although, Bahrain is a signatory of the covenant of the right of the child, however, it continues to violate children’s rights through the use of excessive force, detention and torture.
The government of Bahrain continues to ignore the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC.C.BHR_.CO_.2-3.doc) which stated several times, most recently after the May 2011 review in which the committee recommended:
(b) “Raise the age of full criminal responsibility to 18 years and accord protection of juvenile justice to all children below 18 years and over the newly established minimum age;”
(d) “Ensure that all cases of children in conflict with the law are treated by specialized judges, in specialized courts; “
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other close allies and international institutions to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:
- Immediately release Ebrahim Al Muqdad, Jehad Sadeq and all other detained children and political prisoners
- Set up a fact-finding commission representative of local civil society and NGO’s to investigate all cases regarding the arrest, detention and torture of children
- Hold all officials who have been and continue to be involved in the ongoing human rights violations, including torture and violations of child rights, accountable; including high level officials and members of the ruling family
- Immediately provide adequate medical care for prisoners of conscience
- Respect, uphold and implement the treaties and conventions that Bahrain is signatory to; including the International Convention for the Rights of the Child