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Bahrain: Heavy-handed police tactics condemned after second protestor death

Amnesty International has condemned the heavy-handed tactics used by Bahrain’s riot police earlier today after the second death in two days of protestors calling for political reform in the Gulf state.

Read our report: ' Crackdown in Bahrain: Human rights at the crossroads ' (pdf)

Fadhel ‘Ali Matrook was among a crowd of people mourning the death of ‘Ali ‘Abdulhadi Mushaima’ who was killed in clashes yesterday  between protesters and police, when he himself was shot dead by the police in Bahrain’s capital, Manama. Riot police are said to have opened fire on the crowd without warning during the funeral.

Over 10,000 people reportedly joined today’s funeral procession for ‘Ali ‘Abdulhadi Mushaima. An eyewitness told Amnesty that police opened fired on the procession of mourners without warning as they chanted slogans criticising the government and called for a new constitution and a democratically-elected government.

“Peaceful protesters were chanting ‘Khalifa leave’ and within minutes of the procession beginning, we got attacked by the riot police; bullets were showering the peaceful protesters and there was tear gas everywhere. Several wounded are being rushed to the hospital and many are screaming,” Maryam Al-Khawaja, from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, told Amnesty.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart said:

“This second killing within two days is both tragic and a very worrying development.

“The Bahrain authorities must thoroughly investigate what occurred, stand down the police involved in these shootings and make clear to the police that the use of excessive force will not be tolerated.

“An independent investigation is also urgently required to establish the facts, particularly whether the level of force used by the police, both yesterday and today, can possibly be justified.

“Eyewitness reports of today’s shooting received by Amnesty International suggest strongly that Fadhel ‘Ali Matrook’s death was caused by excessive force, in which case the police responsible must be brought to justice.

“Like many in the region, those in Bahrain who feel their dignity has been compromised are demanding change. The authorities must listen to these calls, rather than retaliating with violence.”

Yesterday’s “Day of Rage” protests in Bahrain, organised on Facebook and Twitter and apparently inspired by protests in Egypt and Tunisia, took place mainly in Shia villages around Manama. According to the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, more than 20 people required hospital treatment as a result of injuries caused by the riot police on Monday.
On Friday, Amnesty International highlighted the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain with a new report  Crackdown in Bahrain: Human Rights at the Crossroads The organisation called on the government to ensure proper investigations into allegations of torture and other serious abuses by the security forces. In August-September 2010, the Bahrain authorities swooped on 23 opposition political activists, detaining them incommunicado for two weeks during which some allege they were tortured.

The authorities have also curtailed freedom of expression, closing critical websites and banning opposition publications. Hundreds of people have been arrested or imprisoned for participating in protests.

Read our report: ' Crackdown in Bahrain: Human rights at the crossroads  (pdf)

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