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[The following statement was issued by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights on 27 January 2013.]
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern over the continued use of excessive force to restrict and attack freedom of expression and assembly in Bahrain despite announced plans for political dialogue by the regime.
On 25 Jan 2012 hundreds of Bahrainis took the streets in the capital Manama and peacefully protested to demand rights, including the right to self-determination, despite restrictions. The Ministry of Interior set up security checkpoints and road blocks on streets leading to the capital to restrict access.
Despite the restrictions, people managed to get into Manama, and were violently attacked by a large number of security forces with tear gas and stun grenades, which also impacted people passing by and the shop keepers in the old market. Tear gas was shot from close distance on the people in the narrow allies of Manama crowded with protesters and shoppers.
The Ministry of interior has called the protest “illegal” in a statement, criminalizing freedom of assembly, at a time when Bahraini law only requires a notification rather than authorization for rallies.
Members of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights have recorded at least two cases of injuries from stun grenades, one male victim who was shot in his leg, and one female who was shot in her shoulder from the back.
A policeman was caught on video slapping a Bahraini citizen, Abdulla Alsaba’a, who is a member of a political opposition society in Bahrain, before he got arrested.
Reporters of international media covering the protest were not saved from assaults and harassments. Mazen Mahdi, EPA photojournalist reported that he was hit by a police sound grenade which was thrown blindly into the crowd. He sustained a minor injury. In addition he was stopped twice for ID check in Manama by the same security unit, in what appeared to be an attempt to hamper his work.
Mass arrests were conducted by riot police accompanied with dogs. According to lawyer Reem Khalaf who was present at AlHoora police station, 43 people were arrested including a Saudi man and an injured man. All of them were held overnight. 15 detainees were interrogated at the public prosecution on Saturday, and the rest were interrogated on Sunday. They all received a 45 day detention order pending investigation on charges of “illegal gathering”, “participating in an unauthorized demonstration” and "disobeying the authorities when asked to disperse".
Among the detainees is a blogger and activist Nader Abdulemam (@NaderAbdulEmam) who was threatened with arrest few days ago over twitter from a pro-government anonymous user. In addition to the above-mentioned charges, Nader is also accused with incitement to participate in unauthorized march.
Faisal Mushaima was arrested and taken to the Bahrain-Gateway (Bab AlBahrain) police station. When his brother, Abdulhadi Mushaima, an elderly man and the father of Ali Mushima, the first victim of extra judicial killing by police on Feb 14, 2011, went to check on him, he was also arrested and told that he is “wanted” by the police. He was kept in detention for several hours and he was moved to the clinic at the ministry of interior as he suffered from a high level of diabetes. He was later released due to his health deterioration.
A member of the Bahrain Society for Human Rights, Hussain Radhi, was arrested while he was monitoring the protests and documenting human rights violations.
A member of the Islamic Scholars Council, cleric Fadhil AlZaki was also arrested.
[Click here to see the full list of detainees as gathered by activists (Arabic).]
When human rights activists and relatives of the detainees gathered outside the Hoora police station to get the updates about the detainees, they were threatened by police with the use of force and arrest if they did not disperse and leave.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights finds these developments conflicting with the recent calls for dialogue announced by the head of state Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, as the attacks continue against the basic rights to freedom of assembly and expression, through the use of force and the criminalisation of these freedoms.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights also notes that basic rights and freedoms are not and should not be negotiable in any dialogue, as they are guaranteed in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls on the international community and the governments of the US, UK and other close allies of Bahrain to put pressure on the government to take actions that reflects seriousness towards having an inclusive, comprehensive political dialogue through:
- Immediately release all political detainees who were detained for their exercise of freedom of expression and assembly, including the recent detainees in Manama.
- Stop all kinds of restrictions and attacks on the exercise of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression guaranteed by international covenants on human rights.
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