For Immediate Release: December 16, 2011
Washington, DC – Yesterday, Bahrain security forces arrested several protestors at the Budaiya Highway, including prominent activist Zainab Al Khawaja. The arrests come less than a month after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) confirmed the use of excessive force by Bahrain’s security forces and is further evidence that protestors continue to be attacked and detained by the regime’s security forces.
“This continued use of excessive force against peaceful protestors reveals the truth about the Bahrain regime’s rhetoric on reform,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “One of the human rights violations we and others have repeatedly detailed in reports is the attacks on protestors by the police. These have continued nearly each day since the publication of the BICI, a report King Hamad of Bahrain commissioned and whose recommendations he promised to urgently implement.”
Al Khawaja is to spend seven days in jail and has been charged with taking part in an illegal gathering, inciting hatred against the regime and assaulting a police officer, although photos and witnesses suggest no such assault. Her arrest came on the same day that Ali al Qassab, a man in his early 20s, was killed when hit by a police vehicle. Earlier today, his funeral was attacked by police, who fired tear gas into the crowd.
The BICI report found that Bahrain police “units fired rubber bullets in a manner that did not aim to cause minimal injuries to civilians. The Commission has found that [police] units resorted to the disproportionate use of tear gas for the dispersion of protesters. On many occasions, the number of tear gas canisters fired at protesters was disproportionate to the size of the demonstration and the number of participants.”
Despite this conclusion from the BICI and evidence from many national and international human rights organizations about dangerous policing methods, nothing seems to have changed in Bahrain.
“Weeks after the King’s promises to reform in response to the BICI, his regime continues to arrest and attack protestors and funeral mourners, continues to prosecute those who peacefully express their views, and continues to imprison those it has tortured and convicted in show trials. Zainab Al Khawaja and the other protestors arrested for peacefully expressing their views should be immediately freed,” concluded Dooley.