A review of Bahrain’s 2014 human rights record by Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights shows that the country’s military forces continued to violently suppress peaceful demonstrations throughout the country during the year. Authorities used excessive force to suppress demonstrations despite recommendations to the contrary from the Bahrain Commission of Inquiry and various international human rights organizations and advocates. One of the most prominent critics was UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, who stressed his concern through his spokesperson with “the excessive use of violence against demonstrators that continues to result in civilian casualties.”
“This is the first report by Euro-Med Monitor on the conditions on the ground in Bahrain, because it is urgent for the international community to stop looking the other way,” says Mira Bishara, Field Researcher of Euro-Med Monitor, which investigates human rights abuses across the MENA (Middle East-North Africa) region.
To compile this report, the Euro-Med Monitor team in Bahrain faced many obstacles in collecting details from the security services. In the final report, many of the victims’ names and circumstances of their beatings and detentions have been omitted to protect them and their families.
The most notable case occurred on 23 February. Bahraini forces cracked down on a mass march held after a funeral in the West Sar area of the capital Manama.Among the dead was Abdul Aziz Al-Abbar, 27,from Al-Sanabis, a village on the northern coast of Bahrain, who went into a coma after being shot directly in the head. The injuries of three other demonstrators, including a 10-year-old, are documented in the report -- including shrapnel embedded in their eyes and wounds to their legs, faces and heads. Videos posted by activists on social-networking sites show multiple demonstrators hit by shotgun fire.
The Bahraini authorities attempted to conceal the true cause of the death of Al-Abbar, with his family refusing to receive his body in protest. After 80 days, the government gave in and the Bahraini Ministry of Heath issued a death certificate recognizing his killing by “shotgun bullets.”
On 21May, security forces opened fire to disperse a demonstration of thousands of people in a village south of the capital, killing Mahmoud Mohsen, 15. According to his death certificate, the bullets penetrated his heart and lungs, with eyewitnesses confirming that security personnel shot him from just a few metres away.
On 15 August, Bahrain’s Independence Day, a demonstration in the southern Al-Ma’amir area of Manama also was suppressed by security forces. Stone-throwing demonstrators clashed with security forces, and eyewitnesses reported that Abbas Ahmad Ashour, 17, was deliberately run over by a security vehicle before being detained by authorities. His family was prevented from seeing him after his transfer to a hospital. The Bahraini Ministry of Interior called him a “saboteur” with just “simple wounds” and accused him of “assaulting police with Molotov cocktails.”
The month of November saw further escalation in the security service’s suppression of demonstrators. A leaked video shot from inside a security vehicle showed an officer assaulting a young man detained after one of the demonstrations. In the video, the officer asks the youth, who was handcuffed and whose face was covered, about mut’ah or “temporary” marriage. Then he begins hurling abusive insults at the boy and beats him in the stomach and head. Other policemen in the vehicle try to calm him down and prevent him from continuing his attack on the prisoner.
On 19 November, Bahraini forces suppressed a peaceful march in the south Sitra area of the capital to commemorate the death of the child Ali Yusuf Biddah, who was killed during a demonstration in 2011. Participants in the march were subjected to successive rounds of tear gas by police. Several demonstrators were injured, including the father of Biddah, who lost his left eye as a result and suffered fractures to his cheek bones and nose. Despite the sharing of a video shot by activists showing the moment of Biddah’s injury during his peaceful participation in the demonstration, the Bahraini Ministry of Interior called him a “saboteur.”
On 21 November, coinciding with the parliamentary elections in Bahrain, police forces attacked the opposition’s headquarters in the area of Karzakan in western Bahrain, using live ammunition to disperse the crowd in the area. Activists broadcast video clips showing five security personnel running toward the area and opening fire without prior warning. On the same day, a video posted by activists showed security forces near the King of Bahrain’s palace stopping a citizen in his car, beating his arms and legs with rifle butts, then handcuffing and arresting him.
On 19 December, Ali Muhammad Hassan Al-Matawa suffered a C4 shot wound close to his mouth as well as another to his foot, which eyewitnesses said were the result of the regime forces’ suppression of a demonstration that occurred in the Al-Sanabis area on the northern coast of Bahrain.
“These incidents are contrary to the duty of the Bahraini authorities to protect citizens’ right to life, peacefully protest and otherwise express themselves,” says Mira Bishara. “The authorities also have violated the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, of which Bahrain is a party,and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, which states that it is the duty of states to allow citizens to demonstrate peacefully and use maximum caution when dispersing violent demonstrations. Those responsible for committing murder outside the scope of the law must be held accountable.”
The Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights is a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization dedicated to exposing human rights violations and defending human rights. The Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights headquarter is based in Geneva, Switzerland, with regional offices in the Middle-East.