Security forces clashed with mourners at a funeral of a 16 year old boy in Al-Muharaq in Bahrain on 21 August, arresting more men in an ongoing crackdown on dissenters for which the Gulf Kingdom has been criticised by numerous human rights organisations.
Hussam Haddad was killed on the night of 17 August and pictures of his body indicate that he was severely beaten and shot at close range with birdshot, according to the Bahraini Centre of Human Rights (BCHR). Based on this evidence, the BCHR concluded the killing was intentional.
The Bahraini Ministry of Interior’s official website ran a statement from the General Director of Police of Al-Muharraq Governorate alleging that following the funeral, rioters threw Molotov cocktails and stones at police and tried to block roads. The clashes led to the arrest of eight who will face charges, the statement concluded.
The latest incident is one of a string of harsh crackdowns on protestors for which human rights organisations have criticised the Bahraini state.
Last Tuesday, the Bahraini Court of Appeal postponed its final ruling on 20 men, including seven tried in absentia, who were sentenced to harsh prison terms by a military court for taking part in protests last year. The sentences included life sentences for eight of the convicted.
Prominent Bahraini human rights activist and member of the BCHR, Said Yousif Al Muhafda, told the Daily News Egypt that he “was shocked at the postponement of their rulings… especially after all international human rights organisations demanded their release.”
Al Muhafda spoke to the Daily News Egypt last Wednesday after being arrested after participating in a protest demanding the release of another Bahraini human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab. Rajab was behind bars at the time for a tweet he had sent and was awaiting trial for further charges relating to participating in unauthorised gatherings.
“I was accused of taking pictures of a checkpoint and I was beaten by traffic police and insulted after which I was taken to a police station,” Al Muhafda said. At the station, he was asked to sign an affidavit without the presence of a lawyer, in which he promised to return the station if asked. Al Muhafda said he was beaten in front of his two terrified daughters.
Last Thursday Rajab was sentenced to three years in prison for three cases of taking part in unauthorised gatherings. On the same day, the appeal Rajab had filed against his earlier three month sentenced was postponed to 23 August, according to the Bahraini Alwasat News. The three month sentence was for “defaming the people of Al-Muharaq” after criticising the Bahraini government on twitter.
Pressure on the Bahraini government has mounted as Rajab’s latest sentence was condemned by several rights groups including the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Front Line Defenders, and the BCHR and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). In addition, 19 members of the United States Congress wrote a letter to the king of Bahrain, King Hamad Bin Isa AI-Khalifa, asking him to release Rajab under the “universal principle that all citizens should have the right to peacefully express disagreement with their government.”
On 21 August, the BCHR and GCHR expressed concern for Rajab’s prison conditions after he was placed in solitary confinement.
Al Muhafda told the Daily News Egypt that he was expecting a different outcome in Rajab’s trial, especially as “tens of human rights organisations and the 19 US Congressman demanded his release.”
Al Muhafda is currently in the United Kingdom where he will deliver a speech on human rights in the British House of Lords, which is holding its a seminar on Thursday entitled the “Bahrain: The continuing political impasse.”
Bahrain came to the attention of the US Congress as well earlier this month when a high level hearing on the “implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report” was held by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission which advocates for human rights in Congress.