Target: Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Goal: Drop all charges against an 11-year-old child accused of “illegal gathering.”
Soon, an 11-year-old boy in Bahrain will hear the verdict leveled against him for his involvement in a recent incident. His crime: playing in the street while in the vicinity of a protest gathering. He and two friends were confronted by two police officers and threatened at gunpoint. While the two friends fled, the officers arrested Ali Hassan and charged the young boy with “illegal gathering” and “disturbing security.” These absurd charges must dropped in the upcoming hearing.
Held for more than three weeks in a detention center before even being allowed to see a lawyer, police interrogated Ali repeatedly, leaving him tired and hungry in his holding area. Eventually he “confessed” to the allegations, although in a hearing the following day he once again denied the accusations stating that he only confessed because his interrogators promised release if he did. He is now free on bail from his incarceration, but charges against the boy still loom ahead.
The specific wording of the allegations with which the court will decide Ali’s fate are stated thus: “participating with others in an illegal gathering of more than five people, in order to disturb public security by way of violence.” If Ali is convicted under such invented accusations, his legal punishment will be the least of his punitive obligation. Ali will be left with an enduring first-hand experience of a judicial and social system instilled with the paranoia of the protestor. His faith in a just and fair social system will be a distant memory of his naïve youth. And he is only 11 years old.
Bahrain must recognize the message they are sending to this impressionable youth and to the rest of his generation. Conviction under these charges would only further entrench a people and a culture in a system of manipulation, a system which protects the fear of administrative leaders over the freedom of the people they represent. Instead, Bahrain must instill trust and hope in its social system and protect the rights of its youth. Demand that Bahrain drop all charges against Ali Hassan.
Dear Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs,
An eleven year old boy, Ali Hassan, was recently detained by police officers while playing with his two friends near an ongoing protest. Threatened at gunpoint, Ali was arrested for “illegal gathering” and “disturbing security.” After being held for more than three weeks without access to a lawyer, Ali was forced to confess to his accusations and released on bail. However, his fate still remains to be decided by a verdict in the coming month. I am writing to ask the court to drop all charges against Ali Hassan.
Besides his unjust detention and shady interrogation, the justice system is in violation of the very laws it is supposed to protect. Under Article 32 of Bahrain’s penal code, “A person, who is not more than 15 years of age at the time of committing an act constituting a crime, shall not be held liable.” Also, under international law standards and Convention mandates, to which Bahrain is an active party, minors have the “right to freedom of association” and “freedom of peaceful assembly.”
Perhaps the most significant repercussion of convicting Ali Hassan would be the lasting impression handed down to him and the rest of his peers. Your future generation deserves more respect, justice and fairness than the generations that have preceded them. Bahrain’s history of human rights violations, especially against government protestors, does not instill much hope in the youth of Bahrain today for a more reformed and free Bahrain tomorrow.
With these issues in mind, and the duty of the judicial system to act in a fair, objective manner, I urge the court to drop all charges against Ali Hassan.
[Your Name Here]