31 March 2012

Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the continued use of excessive force against unarmed protesters and the targeting of media people who cover these protests that has resulted in a new death of a cameraman.

Citizen journalist and cameraman, Ahmed Ismael Hassan AlSamadi, (22 years old) from Salmabad, was shot in the right thigh (lower abdomen) last night at around 01:30 AM 31 March 2012, and was later announced dead. According to eye witnesses, there was peaceful protest in Salmabad which was suppressed by security forces with tear gas and rubber bullets. Armed men in a civilian car (Toyota Land Cruisers) accompanying the security forces were shooting live rounds at protesters.

Witnesses said Ahmed was filming the violations of security forces. At approximately 1:30 am he was shot with a laser-guided weapon by one of the civilian vehicles accompanying the formal security forces. He was hit in the upper right thigh (lower abdomen), as he was targeted for holding a video camera. (top right - photo of the camera with Ahmed's blood on it). (Graphic photo of the injury)

Ahmed was sent to the International Hospital (private hospital) where he was admitted to the ICU immediately. Civilian clothed CID officers arrived and started interrogating his family at the hospital about Ahmed and who brought him to the hospital. The hospital was surrounded by riot police. Ahmed was taken then to the Salmaniya Hospital where his death was announced.

Ahmed was known in the area for being a photographer and was always present at the protests to document what was happening.

Bahrain Ministry of Interior confirmed the death due to an injury in top of the right thigh and announced that the "Medical examiner attributes death of Ahmed Ismaeel to a single bullet wound. Public prosecution investigation continues."

Photo taken 23 March 2012, police with armed civilians while shooting tear gas in Sitra

BCHR has repeatedly warned against the use of armed civilians who are affiliated with the security forces and normally accompany them during attacks on protests as well as during house raids. (see this 2009 report). Several cases of assaults by armed civilians affiliated with the security forces were reported and documented by the independent commission of inquiry (BICI) in its Nov 2011 report, and more cases continue to surface every day.

Photo taken 2 March 2012, showing an armed civilian wearing a jacket with POLICE logo

Ahmed Ismael is the third Killed journalist in Bahrain since the start of the protest in Feb 14, 2011. Last year, BCHR documented a widespread crackdown on photographers for their role in documenting and exposing the violations. While to government announced it has started prosecuting the responsible for the other two deaths, no officer has been convicted yet. Bahrain has been named recently by Reporters Without Borders as one of the 10 most dangerous places for journalists to work.

BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain:

- To Conduct a serious, independent and transparent investigation in the death of Ahmed Ismaeel and to bring those responsible to justice, - To respect its obligation to the signed international conventions in regard to the protection of freedom of expression, in particular, the protection of media people and journalists, including citizen journalists who are doing their work in covering the protests and documenting the violations. - To Immediately put an end to the act of arming civilians and using them against the peaceful protesters.