Police use excessive force to quell protest in Duraz - 5 killed, hundreds arrested

Peaceful Assembly

On 23rd May 2017, five protesters were killed and 286 arrested when Bahrain's police force attacked demonstrators in Duraz village, reportedly firing shots and using tear gas. Among those killed was human rights defender Mohammed Kadhem Mohsen, an environmental activist and Deputy President of a local chapter of Friends of the Environment. Protesters had gathered over the sentencing of Sheikh Isa Qassem on charges of alleged money laundering.

In a statement on 2nd June 2017, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein condemned the killings and called upon the authorities to conduct an impartial investigation into the police's use of excessive force. The High Commissioner’s statement also drew attention to reports that those killed were buried without their families' consent. In addition, Al-Hussien expressed serious concern over the suppression of dissent in Bahrain, urging the authorities to immediately release “any individuals being detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly”.

Association

On 31st May 2017, a Bahrain court issued a decision to dissolve the major political opposition party, the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad). As reported by the Monitor, in March 2017 the Minister of Justice introduced a lawsuit against the party for violating the Law on Political Associations by allegedly “advocating violence, supporting terrorism and incitement to encourage crimes”.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) condemned "in the strongest possible terms the government of Bahrain’s decision to dissolve the last major political opposition group in its efforts to systematically dismantle the country’s independent political space".

Furthermore, Amnesty International has stated that:

“By banning major political opposition groups, Bahrain is now heading towards total suppression of human rights”.

Emboldened by a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia on 21st May 2017, Bahrain's authorities have become even more flagrant in their complete disregard for human rights and their targeting of human rights defenders, journalists, activists and bloggers in the past month. Their tactics have included the use of sexual assault to silence women human rights defenders, the continued imposition of travel bans and the reported use of torture.

According to information from the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Front Line Defenders, on 26th May 2017 human rights defender Ebtisam Al- Saegh was called to the Muharraq police station, where she was sexually assaulted and verbally abused. The police threatened her and demanded that she stop her human rights activities.

Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, President of the BCHR and Founding Director of the GCHR, remains in pretrial detention after the hearing for his case was postponed. Currently, Rajab is in the hospital due to complications related to a surgical procedure. CIVICUS and 14 other human rights organisations have called for “his immediate release and for all charges against him to be dropped”. 

Expression

On 4th June 2017, the Information Affairs Authority ordered Al-Wasat newspaper to discontinue its online and print publications until further notice. The order came from allegations that the newspaper had violated a law and was broadcasting news that affects the country's relations with other countries. As reported by the Monitor, this is not the first time the newspaper has been suspended.

The Committee to Protect Journalists called on the government to lift the ban immediately, asserting that: "Al-Wasat has long been the scapegoat for a government fearful of allowing a free press".