By Sanjeev Bery
July 6, 2012
Despite an outpouring of global concern, news reports indicate that the Government of Bahrain has still not dropped its charges against 11 year old Ali Hassan.
As I wrote earlier this week, Bahraini police arrested the young boy in mid-May on a street that is both near his home and the site of a protest. The police denied him access to a lawyer for 23 days of his nearly one month of detention.
Amnesty International is confirming the details of yesterday’s court decision regarding the young boy’s sentence. According to news reports, the Government of Bahrain has allowed Ali to live at home, but is requiring him to be subjected to government monitoring for a year. The reports also indicate that the original charge of “illegal gathering” and disturbing “public security” has still not been dropped.
On the one hand, the young boy appears to have been spared the worse case scenario of several years in jail. This demonstrates the power of the global human rights spotlight, in which worldwide concern for Ali put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to keep him out of prison. But at the same time, Ali appears to still be facing criminal charges.
As I previously described, Ali’s arrest, interrogation, and denial of access to an attorney for so long are likely violations of both Bahraini law and the Convention for the Rights of the Child (CRC). Government authorities must drop all charges against him immediately and let the boy return to a normal life.
In a press release issued yesterday, the Government of Bahrain attempted to put a positive spin on its actions. The release described Ali’s sentence to one year of government monitoring as intended for “his safety and wellbeing.” It described the place where he was detained for nearly a month as a “Juveniles’ Care Center.” The release even tried to portray his detention as a beneficial time when he “received social services and tutoring for his schoolwork.” Nowhere in the statement was there any mention that he was denied access to a lawyer for 23 days.
With the combination of harsh media coverage and worldwide concern, Bahraini authorities are likely to have realized that convicting an 11 year old of disturbing public security would not go over so well. So it appears that they have split the difference for now — allowing him to stay out of detention, but maintaining the charges against him.
Unfortunately, these reported actions merely continue the violation of Ali’s human rights. You can still help young Ali by letting the Government of Bahrain know that you are watching.