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Crackdown on rights activists escalates ahead of F1

(BCHR/IFEX) - 18 April 2012 - In an attempt to silence the pro-democracy movement which started in Bahrain on 14 February of last year, the Bahraini authorities have escalated their violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters and human rights activists. Villages and houses have been attacked continuously for the past few days. Pre-dawn house raids are being conducted and dozens of protesters are either arrested or wanted for arrest. As the Formula 1 is approaching, human rights activists working with the Bahrain Center for human rights are being targeted with arrests and prosecution, in an effort to undermine their work in reporting the violence against protesters during the Formula 1.

On 15 April 2012, Sayed Yousif Al Mahafdha, the head of monitoring cases and documentation in BCHR, accompanied by two members of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Tom Malinowski, the Washington Director, and Nadim Houry, the deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division, were attacked while observing a peaceful protest in Duraz, one of Bahrain's villages. According to Sayed Yousif, when the protestors reached the main road, six police vehicles approached the protest. Riot police stepped down and violently suppressed the protest by shooting teargas and stun grenades at protesters. For the safety of the Human Rights Watch members, Al Muhafdha took them to a nearby house where other protesters were also taking shelter. Sayed Yousif stated that riot police “stormed the house, sprayed pepper spray in our faces and punched me in the back”. Sayed Yousif, Tom Malinowski, Nadim Houry and the protestors were taken to Budaiya police station and held for four hours before being released. Families of the detainees were attacked with teargas and stun grenades for inquiring about their relatives.

Over the course of the last few days, a number of protesters have also been brutally attacked by security forces. Mohammed Abdul-Aziz, 15, was shot in the chest by security forces who fired at mourners of the martyr Ahmed Ismail on Friday, 13 April 2012. Security forces have widely used shotguns over the last few days in many areas of Bahrain, resulting in a number of injured protesters.

The pellets from the shotgun pierced different parts of Mohammed's body but mainly his chest, which sustained severe injury. He is in a very critical state, and has been taken to Salmaniya hospital where he received initial treatment. The doctor in Salmaniya hospital recommended that he be transferred to Bahrain Defense hospital where he can be admitted for operation, but security forces refused under the pretext that there are no orders for such a transfer. He was later taken to intensive care unit.

Sadeq Reyadh, 15, from Bani Jamra, suffered a skull fracture and internal bleeding as a result of being beaten by a police man. He was admitted to hospital and is still in critical condition.

Habib Mohammed Khalil, 15, from Markh, was beaten by security forces and has been admitted to hospital due to a wound on his arm and a severe eye injury.

BCHR urges the Bahraini government to:

• Drop all charges against Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and put an end to all prosecution of individuals who aim at practicing their rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly.
• Immediately release Mansoor AlJamri, and all other activists who were targeted for exercising their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
• Amend the Assembly law, in order to conform to the international standards which ensure the respect of fundamental liberties such as the freedoms of expression and of association and the right to peaceful assembly;
• Ensure the freedom of peaceful assembly and to conform in particular, to 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders which stipulates in its Art. 5b that « for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others (...) to meet or assemble peacefully »

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