3 October 2012

To this day, Bahraini courtrooms are being ruled by a culture of impunity and a corrupt judicial system. The policemen accused of killing of Isa Abdul Hasan, Ali Al Moamen and Hani Abdulaziz who were murdered last year have either been ruled innocent or given light sentences despite their deliberate killing of unarmed peaceful protesters. This comes at a time where human rights defenders are being jailed for tearing up photos of the King[1]. On 27 Sep 2012, the high criminal court acquitted 2 security men from the murder of Isa Abdul Hassan (60 years old) and Ali AlMoamen (23 years old) on Feb 17, 2011, after a show trial that lasted for months on charges of “accidental murder”. Isa and Ali were killed during the attack on the early hours of February 17 2011, when the Bahraini regime violently attacked the Pearl roundabout where protesters were camping out to demand their rights to democracy and to self-determination. They conducted a pre-dawn attack without warning, endangering the lives of women, children and elderly who were present at the peaceful sit-in. This lead to many injuries and four brutal deaths.

The public prosecution failed to press charges of deliberate murder despite evidences of shooting from very close range, and testimonies of eye-witnesses. Isa Abdulhasan was shot on the head at close range and Ali AlMoamen was killed by a shot on each of his legs, where the canister was shot directly at his body, however the public prosecution pressed charges of accidental murder. The charges were changed by the court to deliberate murder only few weeks before the verdict session. The two security men, one of them of Arab nationality and the other one Bahraini nationality, did not attend the trial as they were not under arrest. The court rejected the repeated requests of the deceased’s’ lawyers to arrest the defendants to avoid their escape, given that one of them is non-Bahraini and he can leave the country[2]. The officer who gave the order to shoot the protesters was presented to the court as a defense witness and when the lawyer requested to have him as a defendant the request was ignored. The public prosecution denied existence of any record of the murder by the hovering helicopter, in contradiction with a testimony given by one of the security officers confirming existence of the record[3].

Isa Abdul Hassan’s death was caused by shotgun pellets shot at his head from a very close range, as close as a few centimeters. The shot was aimed at his forehead, leading to his head to split open[4]. Nazeeha Saeed is a Bahraini journalist who was present at the scene and witnessed the killing of Isa Abdul Hassan. She gave her testimony at court and she was arrested and tortured for saying the same on media last year[5]. Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) investigated into the case and concluded that: “The death of Mr Hussain can be attributed to the use of excessive force by police officers. The fact that the deceased was unarmed and was shot at close range in the head indicates that there was no justification for the use of lethal force.”[6] An investigation was launched by the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and on July 6 2011, two police officers were referred to the Military Court.

Graphic photo: of Isa Abdul Hassan’s head

On the same day Isa Abdul Hassan was killed in the Pearl roundabout, Ali Al Moamen, a 23 year old student, was reported dead after being attacked in Sitra. He left his home that day bound to the Pearl roundabout to help the injured[7]. The BICI report stated that “the cause of death was a shotgun injury to the thighs resulting in damage to blood vessels”, according to his death certificate. The report added that Ali’s “injuries were caused by at least three shots from a distance between one to five meters.” BICI confirmed that “the death of Mr Moumen can be attributed to the use of excessive force by police officers. The fact that the deceased was unarmed and was shot at close range in the thigh indicates that there was no justification for the use of lethal force.”[8]

The court acknowledged that both officers have fired their shots, however it justified the acquittal by claiming lack of evidence against them, taking in consideration the denial of the first who said that he shot his gun in air and that someone else shot Isa, while the other confirmed that he shot one shot in “self defense”[9].

Graphic photo: of Ali Al Moamen’s body

Both Isa Abdul Hassan and Ali Al Moamen’s killers were found innocent and no official was held accountable for the brutal and violent killing of both, although it has been proved to be intentional by witnesses at the time of the killings as well as the BICI report.

Light sentence for killer of Hani Abdulaziz Al Juma

On 27 Sep 2012, the high criminal court sentenced one first Lieutenant to 7 years for the killing of Hani Abdulaziz Al Juma (32 year old) on charges of “accidental killing”. Hani Abdulaziz, a father of a twin, was seen chased by around 10 riot police into an empty building under construction on March 19 2011. An hour and a half later, police left the building without Hani. The residence of the village went looking for him to find him unconscious in a pool of his own blood. He was taken to the International Hospital, a private nearby hospital, were doctors struggled for hours until they managed to stabilize him. MOI officials arrived at the hospital looking for him, accompanied with two police officers, and they transferred him to the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) hospital in an ambulance. That was the last time he was seen by his family.

Five days later, Hani’s family was contacted by BDF hospital and they were told that he had died of his injuries. They were asked to collect his body from Salmaniya Hospital. The death certificate indicated that Hani Abdulaziz died on 19 March 2011, the same day he was attacked and attributed the cause of death to shot by shotgun[10]. Also, Human Rights Watch (HRW) examined the scene of the attack and “found fragments of bone, which a medical expert confirmed to be fragments of knee bone consistent with being shot at close range, as well as a tooth and pieces of human tissue still stuck to the wall and ceiling of the empty room”[11]. BICI further confirmed the deliberate and unjustified killing of Hani stating that “the death of Mr Jumaa can be attributed to the use of excessive force by police. The fact that the deceased was unarmed and was shot three times while running away indicates that there was no justification for the use of lethal force.” The BICI report also explained that there were bruises on his head, face, chest and shoulder but these injuries “were not causative of death” and confirmed that death was caused by “three or more shots at a distance of no more than one meter”[12].

Although the court has acknowledged that Hani Abdulaziz’s death was proved to be caused by three shots of shotgun by the defendant, and that the defendant intended to kill Hani, however the charges remained as “accidental murder” or “physical attack that lead to death” despite requests of the deceased lawyer to change it to “Murder with premeditation” which can lead to death or life sentence in Bahrain[13].

Graphic photo: of Hani Abdulaziz’s body

The Bahraini regime continues to turn a blind-eye to the crimes committed by its forces. Despite the killings of more than a hundred protesters and the torture of thousands, no official has been held accountable. The culture of impunity that is supported by all governmental entities, especially the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice, has encouraged MOI officers to continue violently violating the rights of protesters in Bahrain with no consequences. Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the regime in Bahrain to put measures in place to hold the officers and the head of MOI responsible for the extra-judicial killings accountable for their crimes according to the law and urges the international community to hold Bahrain’s regime accountable for the severe violations of human rights.

[1] HRF: Bahraini Defender Sentenced to Prison for Tearing Picture of King [2] manamavoice.com [3] alwasatnews.com [4] HRW: Bahrain: Hold Perpetrators of Crackdown Accountable [5] Naziha Saeed: twitterfeed [6] BICI Report: Case No. 6: Isa Abdul Hassan: Page 226 – 227 [7] AlJazeera: Doctors Targeted in Bahrain [8] BICI Report: Case No. 7: Ali Al Moamen: Page 227 – 228 [9] alwasatnews.com [10] Hani Abdulaziz’s death certificate [11] HRW: Bahrain: Investigate Shooting, Arrest of Man Caught Up in Police Sweep [12] BICI Report: Case No. 11: 230 – 231 [13] alwasatnews.com