(Washington DC) - Bahraini authorities should order security forces to halt attacks on peaceful protesters and investigate the shooting deaths of February 14 and 15, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Riot police reportedly used teargas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition rounds against pro-democracy demonstrators on February 14, causing numerous injuries and one death. On February 15 police reportedly shot to death a second protester when they fired on a burial procession for the protester killed on Monday.
Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima, 27, died on February 14 as a result of injuries medical personnel said were from live ammunition rounds. Riot police reportedly shot Mushaima during a protest in the village of Daih, near Manama. Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Human Rights Center, told Human Rights Watch that hospital officials said Mushaima was shot with live ammunition, not rubber bullets. Police shot to death Fadhel Ali Matrook, 31, who participated in a funeral procession for Mushaima, on February 15. The Associated Press reported that Matrook died of injuries from "birdshot" fired during a scuffle in the parking lot of Salmaniya hospital in Manama, but Human Rights Watch was not independently able to verify the circumstances of Mushaima or Matrook's deaths. Images from a video of the funeral procession viewed by Human Rights Watch show demonstrators gathering peacefully and chanting anti-government slogans when riot police fired teargas.
"All the reports from independent journalists and Bahraini human rights groups indicate that security forces used lethal force unlawfully against anti-government demonstrators," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Authorities should immediately rein in the riot police and conduct an independent investigation into the events of the past two days."
Thousands of demonstrators marched in Manama, Daih, Diraz, Nuweidrat, and Beni Jamar to protest the ruling Al Khalifa family's tight grip on power, alleged discrimination against the country's majority Shi'a population, and the continued detention of political prisoners. The February 14 demonstrations marked the ninth anniversary of the 2002 referendum in which voters approved the National Action Charter, which included ruling family commitments to democratic reforms.
As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Bahrain must protect and promote freedom of expression and association, and the right to assemble peacefully. Bahrain should also abide by the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, which state that lethal force may only be used when strictly unavoidable to protect life, and must be exercised with restraint and proportionality. The Principles also require governments to "ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offence under their law."