Just days after the Foreign Minister of Bahrain stood before the UN General Assembly and spoke of his Governments commitment to human rights, 2 activists have been killed, medics thrown in prison and protests attacked.
Since the publication of the critical BICI report nearly one year ago, the Government have consistently denied any wrong doing in a bid to convince their international allies of reform. But the past few days alone should seriously reveal the reality behind these false claims, designed purely to avoid being pressured into any actual change.
The past 4 days have seen two people killed as a direct result of the ill treatment of the authorities. On Friday evening, a 17-year-old child, Ali Ne’ema, died after being shot at directly by riot police during a peaceful demonstration. Eyewitnesses say police had been ambushing protesters by hiding in alleyways and targeted Ne’ema specifically. After he was shot police trampled on his chest, before dragging him on the ground 20 metres away from the scene. To make matters worse riot police with tear gas viciously attacked the subsequent funeral march.
This morning the news broke of another sad death, Mohammed Mushaima, a 22-year-old prisoner. He was arrested from hospital last year during the time when the military overtook the running of the hospital. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison even though his lawyers provided evidence that he had been in hospital during the time of his alleged offence. Mushaima suffered from a severe form of sickle cell anaemia and just a few days ago had told his lawyer that his health had deteriorated and he needed to be moved for proper care. The authorities denied the request of his lawyers and as a result he passed away.
Whilst patients are not receiving the correct treatment, medics are being sent to prison. Yesterday the long running trial of the medics came to a close as the Court of Cassation rejected the final appeal of the 9 facing jail terms. This morning they were rearrested in dawn raids and taken straight to prison, including Dr. Ali Alekry who was sentenced to 5 years in prison. Since the beginning of this trial one-year ago the world has been shocked and appalled by the targeting of health professionals, purely for doing their job in treating injured protesters. They have been accused of all sorts of fantastical charges, such as storing weapons in the hospital and terrorist activity.
These incidents are totally inconsistent with the claims made by the Government that they have made reforms, there are no political prisoners and that they respect human rights. The Bahrain Government clearly feels it is either immune to international pressure or that the pressure is not strong enough to stop them from acting in a brutal and unfair manner.
With no serious reforms and no real attempt at dialogue with the opposition the situation on the ground can only be described as deteriorating. There is a real sense of anger amongst the people of Bahrain that they have given so much for change and received nothing in return but the lifeless bodies of their martyrs. Such a situation does not bode well for the future of the country, with the likelihood of a peaceful solution.
International governments claim that their main goal is to see Bahrain implement BICI and open a dialogue with the opposition, but thus far they are failing on both counts. Without a real change in tactics from those states it seems unlikely that stalemate will be positively affected.