Bahrain suspends bill to raise adult age
Manama, April 11, 2012
Efforts to increase the age at which children in Bahrain officially become adults have stalled over fears that it could allow teenagers involved in serious crime to escape proper punishment.
A senior police official warned MPs yesterday (April 10) that the move would actually benefit those orchestrating violence on the streets and put children in danger since they could be recruited by criminals simply because of their age.
Under current law, children officially become adults on their 15th birthday, but the Shura Council wants to increase that age to 18.
However, Interior Ministry legal affairs director Major Raed Bunajma warned MPs against supporting the move, saying if the change went through, people aged 17 and under who committed serious crimes would effectively escape proper punishment.
"Juveniles will be spared life sentences or death sentences even if they are involved in murder, and this is a great opportunity for evil adults to use them to do serious crimes, knowing they will be dealt with as children and put in a juvenile vicinity," he said.
Minister of State for Shura Council and Parliament Affairs Abdulaziz Al Fadhel said it could result in more young children being recruited to take part in criminal activity.
"A new law on juveniles is being prepared and we can't increase the age (of adulthood) from 15 to 18 because there are loopholes that could be used for criminal activity and those behind it can't be punished," he said.
"The council is insisting on increasing the age to 18 in line with international conventions that Bahrain has signed, but our Penal Code can't support that change at the moment," Mr Al Fadhel added.
Parliament was split on whether to back the proposal or shelve it, but public utilities and environment affairs committee chairman Hassan Al Dossary warned that backing the change would actually aid those behind attacks on policemen.
"Those inciting youngsters under 18 will be happy, considering that they will use this age loophole to have others do their dirty work in attacking and murdering policemen," he said.
MPs agreed to suspend the bill. However, no new discussion date has been fixed. – TradeArabia News Service