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Amnesty Int’l Recounts Diraz Incidents: At Least One Dead, Hundreds Injured in Diraz Raid

2017-05-24 - 5:30 p

Bahrain Mirror: Amnesty International said that the Bahraini security forces used excessive force against protesters in the village of Diraz, the majority of whom were peaceful, as part of an ongoing crack down on the village which has been under siege by the authorities for 11 months.

At least one person has been killed and hundreds injured as security forces fired birdshot from shotguns and teargas against protesters.

An eyewitness who spoke to Amnesty International said she had seen hundreds of Ministry of Interior security vehicles and around 20 National Security vehicles moving towards Sheikh Isa Qassim's house. At 07:00, hundreds marched peacefully in Diraz to protest, before clashes with security forces began at around 08:00. Violent clashes are still ongoing in the area. Those trying to leave Diraz are reportedly being shot at by security forces.

At least one man, 39 year old Mohammad Kadhem Mohsen Zainuldine, who is an environmental activist, died from injuries to his head caused by birdshot. Four others have sustained serious injuries and hundreds more have been injured. According to sources on the ground, those who are not severely injured are not going to hospital out of fear that they would be arrested and are instead choosing to receive assistance from first aid trained volunteers.

Amnesty International spoke to witnesses who said that they had seen four helicopters in Diraz from which tear gas was fired at protesters. One eyewitness said that there was more tear gas than she had ever seen before, "You cannot open the windows without it coming in".

Other witnesses said that helicopters fired tear gas at protesters in the neighboring village of Bani Jamra and that some protesters in that village were injured by birdshot. At least seven other villages have seen protests.

Amnesty International has also verified footage of one security officer in Diraz holding a Heckler & Koch MP-5 9mm submachine guns, and of other officers carrying shotguns and has verified other footage of another officer carrying a firearm while raiding a house in Diraz.

At around 12:40pm today, Amnesty International received reports that security officers had surrounded Sheikh Isa Qassim's house and surrounding houses and fired tear gas inside before raiding it. A barbed wire cordon was erected around the house and 50 people were arrested according to a statement by the Ministry of Interior. Sheikh Isa Qassim is not currently amongst those detained however there are fears that authorities may detain and forcibly expel him from the country, as they have done to others whose nationality was arbitrarily revoked in 2015 and 2016

Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns, Middle East at Amnesty International said "Today's disturbing developments again show the consequences of rampant impunity enjoyed by the security forces. There must be a prompt, independent investigation and those responsible for unlawful killing and other arbitrary or abusive force must be prosecuted."

"The authorities must rein in the security forces, order that they strictly comply with international standards on police use of force, and ensure the right to peaceful protest is protected," he further stated.

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