10 Dec 2012

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is appalled by the growing brutality shown by the authorities in Bahrain as Security Forces have displayed an increasing amount of excessive force during recent arrests.

On the 4th of December, 2012, 19 year-old Aqeel Abdulmuhsen was almost killed after he was shot in his face and arms from a very close range. The Ministry of Interior has confirmed that the shooting happened as part of arrest attempt, although the authorities allege that the use of force was in self-defense. The Ministry did not specify whether Aqeel was the intended target, or if it was a person accompanying him.

Witnesses accounts state that Aqeel and one of his friends were sitting in a car in Bani Jamrah on the night of December 4th, 2012, when approximately 17 security officers in civilian clothes quickly emerged from a white bus (license plate number: 20458) and reportedly opened fire upon them.

Aqeel was arrested and taken to the hospital. The BCHR could not confirm the condition of any other person who may have been with him in the car, and who may have also suffered injuries.

By the time Aqeel reached Salmaniya he had lost too much blood for the doctors to immediately operate on his wounds. He was unconscious and placed on a ventilator as doctors waited for his condition to stabilize. Aqeel’s jaw was broken from the force of the direct shotgun wound he received to his mouth. His left arm was also broken from the force of another direct shot. There were two other penetrating wounds, one on his neck and the other on his abdomen which could be caused either by live ammunition or birdshot fired from very close range.

On the following day, December 5th, 2012, Aqeel underwent two operations on his face and another for his hand that lasted nearly 9 hours in total. He was moved from the operating room to the intensive care unit where he remains at the time of writing; doctors have stated that his condition is stable.

In addition to the severe injuries suffered by Aqeel, three of his female relatives were briefly arrested on the same night that he was injured (Lubaba Jafar, Salma Jafar and Fatima Hasan). Their phones were confiscated, and they were questioned at the Budaiay police station about other young persons from the village of BaniJamra and the location where these young people may be hiding. For two hours the security officers verbally harassed and threatened these women with beatings if they continued to hold the police responsible for Aqeel’s treatment. They were later released.

For the past three days, no one was allowed to visit Aqeel. When human rights defenders Said Yousif AlMuhafdha of the BCHR and independent activist Zainab Alkhawaja tried to visit Aqeel on the 8th of December, 2012, they were stopped by security officers and informed that they “must get visitation rights from the Budaiya police”, implying that Aqeel has become a detainee.

Arrest of Zainab Alkhawaja 

On the 9th of December, 2012, activist Zainab AlKhawaja staged a one-person protest outside the intensive care unit to demand visitation rights for Aqeel. She was subsequently arrested from the hospital. The lawyer was informed that she is to be held overnight and taken to the public prosecution the next day. Alkhawaja is already due for a verdict hearing on the 10th of December in one of her cases. After the protest and arrest of Zainab Alkhawaja, Aqeel’s family members were allowed to see him briefly.

It should be noted that the ammunition shells found at the site of the shooting on the night of injury are Victory Starlight birdshot, which are manufactured in Cyprus.

The use of shotguns has resulted in the death of approximately 17 persons since February 14th, 2011, the last of whom was a 17 year-old named Ali Neamah, who was killed in September 2012 by direct shots from a shotgun fired by security forces. The BCHR regularly receives a large number of reports of shotgun injuries, most of which are treated in private homes out of fear of being arrested from the hospital.

The BCHR also calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN and all other allies and international institutions to put pressure of the Government of Bahrain to:

- stop its use of excessive force in response to the continued peaceful protests, and to consider a meaningful solution to resolve the persistent political issues of instability in the country. - Immediately lift the security restrictions over Aqeel Abdulmuhsen and allow his family and rights activist to visit him regularly. - Release and drop all charges against human rights activist Zainab AlKhawaja who was arrested for peacefully protesting. - Immediately secure safe access to hospitals and proper medical treatment for injured pro-democracy protesters without being subjected to any threats of arrest or prosecution. The BCHR calls on the Government of Cyprus and other Ally Governments to Bahrain to Stop supplying the government of Bahrain with arms that are used against peaceful protesters, causing injuries and deaths among them.