AI Index: MDE 11/003/2005 (Public) News Service No: 196

Amnesty International is deeply disturbed at the reported use of excessive and unnecessary force by Bahraini security forces against people preparing for a peaceful demonstration. On 15 July 2005 a group of 15 people, including five women, and two leading human rights activists, ‘Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab, of the dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), arrived at the scene of a planned demonstration against unemployment. The authorities had reportedly been informed of the demonstration a week earlier. However, before all demonstrators had gathered security forces charged at the 15, and others who had joined them, beating them. A total of 32 people were said to have been beaten and needed hospital treatment. Nabeel Rajab is said to have sustained a fractured arm, a head injury and a broken finger while others suffered bruising on various parts of their bodies. No arrests were made.

During a similar demonstration in front of the Royal Court in Rifa’a on 19 June 2005 security forces violently dispersed 50 peaceful demonstrators and arrested 30 of them before releasing them the same day without charge. In a letter to the Minister of Interior, Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, dated 24 June 2005, Amnesty International called for an inquiry into the beatings to be carried out, for the findings to be made public and for members of the security forces suspected to have used unnecessary force to be brought to justice. No response has been received by the organization.

The use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators can never be justified and contravene Article 3 of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials of 1979. Freedom of expression should be respected and guaranteed, and no unlawful limitations are allowed to be placed on it.

Amnesty International calls on the government of Bahrain to carry out an independent and impartial investigation of police behaviour against peaceful demonstrators and bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible for abuse. The organization urges the government to take immediate steps to ensure that peaceful demonstrators are allowed to express their opinion freely and are protected from any intimidation or harassment.