10th July, 2012 –

There was a lot of excitement about the case of Ali Hassan, the 11-year old briefly held by Bahraini police after being paid to block roads. Human rights groups round the world denounced the detention of such a young child and many NGOs were very quick to condemn Bahrain, assuming Bahrain’s authorities to be at fault, without taking the time to clarify the circumstances.

Some media outlets reported in recent days that the decision had been taken for Ali not to face charges. However, there was never a prospect that he would face any charges. Following some very brief questions when he was initially picked up by police Hassan was released to his mother. However, a social worker determined that he was an “at risk” child because of his family circumstances and the court was mandated to take a decision regarding his long term care. The court never had the authority or the responsibility for taking a judgement on criminal charges against a minor below the age of criminal responsibility.

The final ruling last Thursday was that he would be monitored by a social worker over the coming year – at the highly intrusive level of one visit every six months – so much for police state Bahrain! Surely if the authorities are genuinely concerned about Ali’s welfare, they should be keeping a slightly closer eye on him than this?

Ali told police that he had been paid to block roads. This is what police have been hearing on dozens of occasions – that youngsters are being paid relatively small amounts of money to burn tyres, block roads, write slogans on walls and vandalize property.

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