The following statement was originally published on bahrainrights.org on 18 January 2017.
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights condemns the arbitrary practices of the Bahraini government as it responds to popular protests that immediately followed the unjust executions of three citizens despite claims of torture and unfair trials.
A few hours after the prosecutor general announced on 15 January 2017 that an execution sentence had been carried out against Sami Mushaimaa, Abbas al-Samie and Ali al-Singace, a number of marches and protests began in several districts of Bahrain. At the same time, agents of the security forces undertook a wave of raids and arbitrary arrests, as a violent response to these peaceful protests.
According to a BCHR count, since 15 January 2017, the security forces have arrested a total of 20 citizens in an arbitrary manner, including three children under the age of 18. Three of the total arrestees have since been released. One of those arrested was Munir Mushaimaa, the brother of Sami Mushaimaa, who was arrested by four plain-clothes police officers in an unmarked car. Munir was taken directly from the cemetery to the Nabih Salih police station, where he was questioned over a video clip showing him crying over the death of his brother and talking uncontrollably.
On the same day, 150 peaceful marches set out in 38 locations across Bahrain. Of these, 53 were suppressed by the security forces, using birdshot and large amounts of tear gas. Security forces' use of tear gas was so heavy that it effectively choked residential areas. Reports from Bahrain Watch suggest that the tear gas employed was manufactured in Brazil and France.
The excessive force used to suppress the violent protests resulted in a number of injuries - BHCR was able to document dozens. The majority were direct injuries from shrapnel of birdshot in the upper half of the body, including the head and chest. Mostly, these injuries were treated at home due to fear of arrest.
In addition to this, Bahrain has been violating its obligations under human rights laws, especially those related to freedom of expression and of free assembly, since it began suppressing protests concentrated at Pearl Roundabout in 2011. The use by authorities of excessive force to respond to peaceful demonstrations puts the lives of protesters at risk.
Based on the above, BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, the European Union and all close allies of Bahrain, as well as international organisations, to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to do the following:
- Put an immediate stop to the use of excessive force – which poses a risk to life – to deal with peaceful protests
- Guarantee all human rights, especially those related to freedom of expression and of peaceful gathering
- Release all those who have been subject to arbitrary arrest
- Hold to account those members of the security forces responsible for using excessive amounts of tear gas and birdshot, thus causing severe injuries to citizens
- Bahrain must cease being supplied with weapons that it uses to attack peaceful demonstrations and threaten the lives of its own citizens.