Clashes in Bahrain ahead of crackdown report
Bahraini police clashed with protesters in at least two Shiite villages as tensions escalated ahead of Wednesday’s release of a report on alleged rights abuses during a protest crackdown, activists said.
Protests erupted early morning in Aali village on the outskirts of the capital Manama, where rights activists and an AFP correspondentsaid police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators.
A Bahraini man was killed when his car crashed into a wall as police confronted the protesters, according to the activists.
“I saw the police attack. There were a few dozen protesters shouting and chanting. The police attacked them with tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound bombs,” said Mohammed Maskati, head of the Bahraini Youth Society for Human Rights.
Nabil Rajab, a Shiite rights and opposition activist said the victim, Abdelnabi Kadhim, was “apparently not protesting. He was in his car when then police chased after him.”
In an online tweet, the interior ministry said a man died in a traffic accident in Aali, adding an investigation was underway. The tweet made no mention of police involvement.
An AFP correspondent in Aali said dozens of men and women chanted “Hamad must fall,” referring to the Sunni king whose family has ruled the Shiite-majority kingdom for some 250 years.
The smell of tear gas wafted through the air and the streets were littered with empty tear gas canisters and sandals, abandoned by protesters as they fled the police.
Clashes also erupted in the Shiite island of Sitra where mourners protested the November 19 death of a 16-year-old boy killed after being struck by a police car, witnesses said.
The police at the time said the boy’s death was an accident after a police car lost control and struck him.
The clashes occurred just hours before the much-anticipated release of a report by the Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was commissioned by the king to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in the bloody crackdown in February and March on anti-government protesters.
Speaking to AFP in Aali, protesters said they expected little to change after the rights report.
“This report will not change anything. We don’t expect anything from it,” said one protester speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
“This report serves the interests of the king,” said another Aali protester.
The findings by the commission will be released later Wednesday after speeches by King Hamad and the report’s chief author, Cherif Bassiouni, a world renowned international human rights lawyer.
Authorities say 25 people, including four policemen, were killed in the early spring crackdown while the Shiite-led opposition puts the death toll at 30. Hundreds more were injured.
Tensions have remained high since the mid-March crackdown, particularly in the Shiite villages where residents complain of years of marginalisation.
On Tuesday, Bahrain’s main opposition group dismissed a government statement acknowledging “instances of excessive force” during the crackdown saying authorities were trying to pin the abuse on “junior officers.”
The opposition maintains that the human rights violations in the months of unrest are a “systematic…planned policy” of government and that decision-makers and top officials should be held accountable.
Late Monday, three Bahraini rights groups released their own findings on the repression saying in a statement “society as a whole was targeted” in the government crackdown.