Authorities Refusing to Reveal Whereabouts of Growing Roster of Detainees
March 23, 2011

It's bad enough that authorities refuse to say anything about the well-being, whereabouts, or legal charges against their scores of detainees. But denying information to the families of people who are injured by security forces is a new and alarming development.

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch.

Update:

On March 24, 2011, five days after his attack, the Bahraini Defense Force (BDF) hospital informed Jumah's family that he had succumbed to his injuries and that they could pick up his body at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) the next morning. The family received Jumah's body on the morning of March 25, and he was buried in a cemetery close to his hometown village of Khamis later that afternoon. Human Rights Watch was able to examine Jumah's body prior to his burial. The injuries seemed consistent with information Human Rights Watch had received from witnesses a few days ago indicating that Jumah had been shot several times at close range by a shotgun. When the family received the news of Jumah's death, residents of the village began to gather. Prior to the burial, Human Rights Watch saw video footage and interviewed multiple witnesses and victims who told Human Rights Watch that as they gathered around the family home around 8:20 p.m. on March 24, riot police entered the village and fired pellet-gun rounds and teargas to disperse the crowds.

(Manama) - Bahraini authorities should immediately investigate the shooting of a 32-year-old man caught up in a police sweep on March 19, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should immediately reveal his whereabouts and condition and hold those responsible for his attack accountable, Human Rights Watch said.

The man, Hani Abdul-Aziz Abdullah Jumah, is among scores of people arrested since security forces resumed attacks on protesters on March 15. The authorities have refused to reveal where they are being held or the charges against them.

"It's bad enough that authorities refuse to say anything about the well-being, whereabouts, or legal charges against their scores of detainees," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch. "But denying information to the families of people who are injured by security forces is a new and alarming development."

Jumah, a cleaner from Khamis village and the father of year-old twins, left the family's house at about 5 p.m. on March 19. His father, Abd al-Aziz Abdullah Jumah, told Human Rights Watch his son was responding to a cry for help outside just as riot police began sweeping through the neighborhood.

Fifteen minutes later, a witness said, the younger Jumah was seen running from the Khamis roundabout pursued by eight riot police wearing helmets. "Hani was running toward the nearby building, which was under construction, and the police were 15 meters behind him," the witness said, asking not to be named for security reasons. "He ran straight past my house."

Another witness said he had seen police chase Jumah into an empty apartment building under construction, but only realized an hour-and-a-half later that Jumah had not left the building after the police did. The witness raised an alarm, and local residents went to search for Jumah. They found him unconscious, lying in a large pool of his own blood, the witness said. He sustained massive injuries to his knees and arm caused by being shot at point-blank range with a shotgun, a witness told Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch examined the scene of the attack on March 22, three days afterwards, 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, apparently the result of the velocity of the shots that maimed Jumah.

"The sheer brutality of the attack on Hani Jumah demands an immediate independent investigation, and the officers responsible need to be held accountable," Stork said. "Bahraini authorities have not even acknowledged his whereabouts, much less explained why he was lying there in a pool of blood."

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that they rolled Jumah onto a carpet provided by a local resident and brought him by car to a nearby private hospital, where doctors struggled for nearly two hours to stabilize him after massive blood loss. Jumah's father said that at about 9:20 p.m., an ambulance arrived from the Bahraini Defense Force (BDF) Hospital, accompanied by two masked police officers, and the officers announced they were transferring his son to that hospital. That was the last time Jumah's family saw him.

The father told Human Rights Watch that he called the BDF Hospital on both March 20 and March 21 requesting information on his son's whereabouts and condition, but that hospital officials would give him no information. "I told them I know the BDF ambulance came and brought my son there, but the BDF Hospital keeps saying, 'No, he is not here.'" The father said he said he told the officials that he and Jumah's mother would come and look for him, but that they said, "No chance."

"Hani Jumah was last seen being taken away in a BDF Hospital ambulance, and we know from witnesses and medical experts that there was no way he could have walked away after being shot in the knees at close range," Stork said. "The military runs the BDF Hospital and needs to tell Jumah's family how and where he is."

As of March 23, Wefaq, a leading Bahraini political society, had documented 112 cases of people missing as well as dozens detained without charge since attacks on protesters resumed on March 15. Human Rights Watch has also documented a pattern over the past week of late-night raids on homes and arrests of people who have criticized the government, as well as prominent opposition figures and doctors.

"Bahrain's declaration of martial law on March 15 does not change the responsibility of the authorities and security forces to comply with their obligations under international human rights law." Stork said. "They need to account for all those in state custody and investigate the apparent unlawful use of force against Hani Jumah."

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