BCHR: Collective punishment to citizens planned a trip to Um-Ne'ssan island
BCHR expresses its deep concerns about the reaction and ill-treatment carried out by the Bahraini Authorities to a group of citizens planned to make a "site seeing" trip to Um Ne'ssan- third largest island of the Bahrain archipelago. This island, to the west of Bahrain, is the first landing of King's Fahd Causeway, linking Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
Hundreds of security troops, armed with fired tear gas and heavy rubber bullets, were deployed early Monday morning to prevent entry to the sea, besieging the entire west coast from Al-Jasra down to Malekeya. Helicopters were hovering over the entire coast, as well as to support special force, and riot police scrutinizing vehicles intending to pass over King's Fahd Causeway. Around noon time,
A day earlier, the Bahrain's Interior Ministry issued a statement indicating that " the island of Um Ne'ssan is allocated by the King for special military use of Bahrain defense force and therefore, it's banned for anybody to approach or to carry out any activity close to it or he will be violating the law and will be punishable according to Article 135 of the Bahraini Penal Code".
The trip was organized by a local committee comprised of members from four villages on the west coast of Bahrain: Malekeya, Karazakan, Demestan and Hamala. The committee planned the trip to coincide with Eid Al-Fitr vacation, and publicized an advert few days ago such that groups leave the four villages, either by sea or land through King's Fahd Causeway, at 1pm on Monday, October 15, 2007. The idea of the trip came after the minister of municipalities issued a statement saying all the islands were public property.
Just prior to noon time, all roads leading to the west coast have been sealed off with, the aid of armed troops on the ground and the helicopters hovering in the sky of the area. Witnesses reported that Associated Press photographer was threatened by a masked member of the security with a pistol, when he tried to approach the coast and was ordered to leave the premises.
Considering the tenseness of the situation created by the local security bodies all over the area of the west coast and in compliance with the request of many mediators, religious and political figures who promised to raise the islands issue to open the path for future trip, the committee of the trip to Um-Ne'ssan convened publically at 12:30pm. The meeting, which lasted over an hour, was with those wishing to go to the islands, and after discussing the matter thoroughly, the committee decided collectively to postpone the trip, after which everybody peacefully dispersed.
Nevertheless, the special forces at Malekeya coast started intimidating the fishermen who were near the coast looking after their boats, which were dragged by Bahrain Marine Forces last Saturday into the middle of the sea, as first reaction to the advert of the trip. The special forces then fired gas and rubber bullets on the local fishermen who hurried back to their houses. The forces then, besieged the small village, showered it with chemical tear gas and rubber bullets. As a reaction, rubber tyres were blazed by protestor, which were pursued by the security forces, and started ransacking some houses.
Witnesses reported some injuries, and apprehension of some youths, who were collectively subjected to torture and were beaten by batons and heals of the rubber boots before being released. The injuries included women, children and old women who suffered from suffocation and inhaling the chemical tear gas.
BCHR denounces the Authorities reactions and measures taken against the citizens, either in the four coastal villages, or those who were subjected to humiliating inspection prior to the polling station of King's Fahd Causeway. It through light on the issue and legitimacy of islands and public lands misappropriation, considering the inherent right for the right of the people of Bahrain to travel to public islands, as guaranteed by the international charters. BCHR demands setting out a national independent enquiry on this issue ensuring protection and maintenance of public properties, as well as bring to justice those responsible of the violations and atrocities and collective punishment carried out by the security forces in and nearby Malekeya.